T20 World Cup champions India get heroes welcome upon returning home

India men’s cricket team returned home to a heroes’ welcome on Thursday after winning the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2024, with skipper Rohit Sharma and his players hailed by euphoric fans jostling to glimpse their stars.

Frenzied crowds shouted “India, India” after the T20 World Cup winners landed in New Delhi from the Caribbean, having been delayed for days by Hurricane Beryl.

Whistles and wild cheers greeted the players as they walked out from the arrivals area with gold medals around their necks, some giving a thumbs-up to their fans.

“This is surreal, watching my team with the World Cup,” emotional fan Rohit Khanna told AFP.

“I saw the 2011 triumph, but this is a moment I will never forget.”

Despite monsoon rain, crowds gathered outside New Delhi’s airport long before dawn, waiting for a glimpse of their idols, who had beaten South Africa on Saturday in a thrilling final in Barbados.

“It’s home,” India’s cricket board said on social media.

It was vice-captain Hardik Pandya who emerged first wearing a Caribbean hat, and the crowd erupted when captain Rohit came out carrying the glittering trophy, which he hoisted into the air.

Star batsman Virat Kohli, whose hometown is Delhi, was given some of the loudest cheers as he waved to hundreds of fans.

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“It’s a dream for me to witness India return home from a World Cup,” said a shirtless fan with a Kohli tattoo emblazoned on his chest.

The team are due to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi later on Thursday, before flying to Mumbai for a victory parade in the heart of India’s financial capital later in the day.

They eventually left the airport in buses, flanked by a long escort of police cars with wailing sirens.

Last weekend’s win ended an 11-year global cricket trophy drought for India following their 2013 Champions Trophy win.

Their last World Cup victory was at home in the 2011 50-over edition under the captaincy of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

One fan held up a poster of coach Rahul Dravid. “Thank you, Mr Dependable”, it read.

The final was the last match in charge for Dravid, 51, who was bounced in the air by the team during the post-match celebrations.

Rohit, Kohli and allrounder Ravindra Jadeja all announced their retirement from T20 international cricket after the final.

Plane tracking website, Flightradar24, said the special Air India charter had been the “most tracked flight for much of the last 15 hours”, as excited fans followed their team’s journey back from the Caribbean.

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