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They're home: India's T20 world champs arrive in Delhi; fans brave rain to welcome players

Hundreds of supporters, holding placards congratulating their favourites and waving the national flag, braved the weather to welcome the victorious side, which defeated South Africa by seven runs in the final in Bridgetown on Saturday last week.

Theyre home: Indias T20 world champs arrive in Delhi; fans brave rain to welcome players
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Rohit Sharma holding the trophy at the Delhi Airport (Photo: X)

NEW DELHI: The T20 World Cup-winning Indian cricket team returned to the country here on Thursday aboard a specially-arranged charter flight with scores of fans lining up outside the airport to welcome the players despite a steady drizzle and heavy security deployment that kept them at a distance from their heroes.

Hundreds of supporters, holding placards congratulating their favourites and waving the national flag, braved the weather to welcome the victorious side, which defeated South Africa by seven runs in the final in Bridgetown on Saturday last week.

"We have waited for this moment for the past 13 years. The team has made us proud by winning the World Cup," a fan, who claimed to have been waiting since 4:30am in the morning said, referring to India's last World Cup triumph which came back in 2011.

The side was unable to head back home immediately after the title win due to a shutdown forced by hurricane Beryl in Barbados. They were cocooned in their hotel before the BCCI made arrangements for the special charter flight.

The Air India special charter flight AIC24WC -- Air India Champions 24 World Cup -- which left Barbados around 4:50am local time on Wednesday arrived in Delhi at 6am (IST) on Thursday after a 16-hour non-stop journey.

The Indian squad, its support staff, the players' families and some BCCI officials were aboard the flight along with members of the travelling media contingent.

Heavy security was deployed to keep the crowd in check at the Indira Gandhi International airport but that did little to dampen the spirits as fans cheered enthusiastically holding up posters of star batter Virat Kohli, skipper Rohit Sharma and outgoing head coach Rahul Dravid.

Two buses were stationed outside the T3 Terminal to ferry the players to their hotel, from where they will head to the Prime Minister's residence at 9am tentatively for a reception.

They trickled out in ones and twos after completing immigration formalities.

Tired but excited, the players acknowledged the waiting fans by waving at them and flashing warm smiles.

Suryakumar Yadav, who took the sensational match-winning catch of David Miller in the final, was the most enthusiastic in responding to the cheering.

Wicketkeeper-batter Rishabh Pant saluted the gathered crowd, while pacer Mohammed Siraj blew flying kisses in their direction.

Rohit and Player of the Final Virat Kohli, both of whom retired from T20Is at the end of India's campaign, were among the last to come out of the VIP exit.

Rohit, who held the coveted trophy in his hands, raised it for the fans to catch a glimpse before boarding the bus. Kohli gave a thumbs up to acknowledge the support before taking his place in the bus.

In their excitement to see their heroes in person, some fans claimed that they had been waiting outside the airport since last night.

"We have been here since last night. It was very important for us to win this World Cup after losing the ODI World Cup last year," a group of fans said.

The squad won the country its second T20 world title, ending an 11-year wait for an ICC trophy, on Saturday. India's previous ICC title was in 2013 when it won the Champions Trophy under Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Its earlier World Cup titles came in 1983 (ODI), 2007 (T20) and 2011 (ODI).

After meeting the Prime Minister, the players will fly to Mumbai to participate in an open bus victory parade followed by a felicitation ceremony at the Wankhede Stadium.

BCCI secretary Jay Shah and Rohit had posted on social media on Wednesday, urging fans to turn up in large numbers to show their support for the side.

It would be a special moment for the 37-year-old Rohit, who is a Mumbaikar and a huge fan favourite in the city.

A similar road show was held in Mumbai 17 years ago when Dhoni's team had beaten arch-rivals Pakistan in the final of the inaugural 2007 World T20 in South Africa.

PTI
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