| Yuvraj Singh dances during the team’s victory parade. (PTI)
M.S. Dhoni and his boys took about four-and-a-half hours to cover the 23km distance from Sahar International Airport to Wankhede stadium, a good hour and a half more than they took to lift the T20 Cup. Here’s why and how:
Flight information board outside Sahar says: EK-504 LANDED.
The 10,000-strong crowd waiting outside goes wild. Drumbeats peak to a crescendo. Two men in traditional Maharashtrian finery, part of the official reception party, start blowing huge bugles.
An official races in to stop them. “Not now,” he says, “blow them when the Team walks out.”
There’s a hum as BCCI officials led by Sharad Pawar walk out of the airport. Some of Pawar’s Nationalist Congress Party loyalists raise slogans. Most ignore them.
Suddenly, the chanting and sloganeering stop. The crowd falls silent.
All crane their necks and stand on their toes. For about 10 minutes, time seems frozen.
Like an ancient warrior, Dhoni walks out into the frenzy, trophy in hand.
No smile lights up his face. His focus is on protecting the priceless gift he carries for his countrymen — the T20 World Cup.
The crowd goes hysterical.
Dhoni turns and speaks to Uthappa, who is following him with a smile.
As securitymen form a human chain to keep out the jostling crowds, Dhoni, looking calm and at no one in particular, walks into a waiting open-top bus. The impression is he’s totally unaware of his surroundings.
But his boys are not so stoic, least of all the flashy Yuvraj who waves as the crowds chant his name. Harbhajan does a little bhangra step.
R.P. Singh smiles and speaks to a securityman next to him. “I will sure give an autograph, but how'” he asks the man who cannot even offer his palm because his hands are locked in his colleagues’ in a chain around the cricketer.
Atop the bus, Dhoni stands at the head of the stairs as his boys move into the deck. He waves at them, wanting to say something.
But Yuvi has broken into an impromptu jig with Bhajji by then and has his back to the captain.
In spite of the famed team spirit, it’s difficult to miss a bit of a cold vibe between Yuvi and Dhoni.
Dhoni and Yuvi stand at opposite ends of the bus, the difference in their temperaments stark. One calm and collected, the other boisterous and uninhibited.
The bus starts. It’s half an hour before it rolls through the airport gate.
Millions of rain-soaked Mumbaikars throng the entire route through which the cavalcade passes, throwing gulal, chocolates, laddoos and flowers. The cricketers don’t show any signs of fatigue and accept the good wishes with grace. Yuvi entertains the crowds all the way. Irfan waves untiringly.
The boys look battle-weary but have the attitude of victorious warriors as they stride into the Wankhede stadium. A crowd of 30,000 gives them a roaring ovation.
As Team India steps on the podium, the roar becomes a chant: “India, India, Dhoni, Dhoni.”
Bhajji breaks into bhangra again, in sync with the title track of Chak De! India that seems to have become an anthem of sorts for the team.
Uthappa, smeared with gulal and smile in place, joins in for a while, before settling down for the presentation ceremony.
The team sits on the dais as Pawar and Maharashtra deputy chief minister R.R. Patil give speeches.
Dhoni looks on, soaking in the praise with a calm that belies the pride and joy he would have been feeling.
Virender Sehwag takes a peek at the T20 medal around his neck and chats with Yuvi for a while before settling down to listen to Pawar.
As the speeches continue, Irfan Pathan and brother Yusuf sit together, waving to the crowd. Both wave the Indian flag. At one point, Yusuf looks up at the flag, closes his eyes and says something, perhaps a prayer. Irfan, hand on chin, seems deep in thought.
The prize-giving ceremony begins.
The team breaks out in loud cheer when compere Harsha Bhogle announces that Neo Sports has gifted R.P. Singh a Mercedes.
Yuvi, who got a Porsche 911 for his six straight sixes, looks amused. He murmurs something to RP, after which they break into giggles.
Comeback man Viru manages a smile when Bhogle says: “He might be losing his hair, but not his touch.”
The boys cheer as names of the support staff are announced, acknowledging their contribution to the victory.
Dhoni is asked to take the mike and field questions from Bhogle. He draws laughter from his mates when he says Sreesanth makes him nervous on the field.
Sree, sporting glasses, laughs loudest. He nods his head dramatically when Dhoni says it’s nice to have a guy like him in the team. Otherwise, he sits quietly in the back row beside Sehwag.
The most heart-warming moment as Team India takes a victory lap to deafening cheers. People rush out of the stands and climb over fences to join the country’s darlings in the grand finale.