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Fans invade Wankhede
Raja Sen at the Wankhede
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September 26, 2007 14:00 IST
Last Updated: September 26, 2007 17:02 IST

The speechifying is over, the lap of honor is on, and it is pure chaos. Hundreds of fans have broken through the barriers and run onto the ground; I counted one dozen security officials running around, lathis waving ineffectively as they try to chase the crowd back into the stands and away from a turf on which India and Australia are slated to play a one day game soon.

And with this, the celebration is officially over, folks -- revel in the moment, as we are, as the team walks around the periphery of the ground, waving to the fans and breaking inot the occasional impromptu jig.

In passing, spare a thought for these players. Sometime this evening, most of them will go home.

But there is no time to shed the fatigue, to absorb the sense of it all, to relax and put their feet up -- two days from now, before the jet lag has fully ebbed, they have to turn up again, for the first game in the India-Australia series.


BCCI president and Union minister Sharad Pawar [Images] is saying something or other -- actually, he is applauding the team, and Mahendra Singh Dhoni [Images] for his captaincy, first in English and in a sudden segue, briefly in Marathi.

The crowd can hear maybe one word in five; the rest are drowned in the roar of its own joy. But that one word in five -- especially if that word is 'Dhoni' or 'team' or 'World Cup' -- is enough to set off fresh roars.

Harsha Bhogle comperes the event -- and mercifully, does it quick and clean, quickly handing off from one speaker to the next without taking time to add his own two bits.

Deputy Chief Minister R R Patil takes over from Pawar and continues the eulogies; meanwhile, sections of the crowd are proving a bit restive. They are looking towards the dais, and outside of Dhoni, who is sandwiched between Pawar and Board secretary Niranjan Shah, the rest of the team has been relegated to the backdrop, while the politicians and board officials have completely hogged all the limelight.

Two speeches later, the felicitations have begun, with players being called up front to receive, from Sharad Pawar, envelopes containing their share of the two million bounty declared by the Board for the successful team.

Besides the envelope, each player is being draped with a shawl and handed a bouquet of flowers that, judging by their appearance, was hastily procured from the florist around the corner.

Not that the players will mind -- as the name of each is announced, the roar of the crowd is sufficient testimony to their status; flowers and shawls seem superfluous.

Stay in touch, will bring you more, momentarily...


We waited for four and a half hours, only able to guess at the madness on Mumbai roads as the cavalcade wound its way towards us.

Finally, now, they are here -- a full house of fans at the Wankhede lifted the roof as the players ran out onto the ground, while firecrackers went off all around them.

Marriage proposals at Marine Drive

The scenes are surreal -- Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, Chak de India, Meri Desh ki Dharti and other songs form a pulsating undercurrent to a roar from the crowd that, unlike when a match is on, is not an intermittent pulse but a constant, nerve-jangling din.

The players are celebrating in the middle; hugging each other and breaking into impromptu jigs; in the stands, the dancing is non-stop as the stadium seems swept up in a fervor that, intense as it is, is still nowhere close to peaking.

That could come in time, as the BCCI honchos honor the individual players; for now, it is a collective frenzy binding fans and players alike in an unparalleled orgy of celebrations; euphoria that is perhaps more pronounced because the win -- by a team of youngsters under a new team, that had landed at the venue three days before the contest began, with a sum total of one Twenty20 as its quota of 'experience' -- is so completely unexpected.

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