|Photos||Video & Audio||Blogs||Statistics||Archive||Shop||Mobile|
September 26, 2007
A grand ceremony at a packed Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai saw Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the Indian team honoured for for winning the ICC World Twenty20. While the players received cheques of Rs 80 lakh ($200,000) each, the coaches and support staff were given Rs 15 lakh ($38,000) each.
The ceremony came at the end of a nearly five-hour-long ride on an open-top double-decker bus from Sahar international airport. Traffic was brought to a standstill on the route, approximately 20 kilometres long, with crowds lining the roadsides. The journey was made amid tight security, with police outriders leading the motorcade.
Even a steady downfall of rain could not dampen the spirits of players or the public as the team was first received by Sharad Pawar, the president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India, Vilasrao Deshmukh, the chief minister of Maharashtra and other top brass of the BCCI and the state government.
After the team received cheques, Dhoni addressed the crowd and began with the ball that clinched the ICC World Twenty20. "When Misbah-ul-Haq played that shot, my initial fear was that it might land just behind Sreesanth. So I was not looking at Sreesanth, my eyes were on his hands, whether he could catch it," Dhoni said. Asked if the temperamental Sreesanth left Dhoni a bit tense he said, "Not a bit, he makes me quite tense" before adding "But every team needs characters like him."
Dhoni praised the cricketers who came from the smaller towns in India, saying: "Guys coming from small-time towns are generally mentally and physically tougher than those coming from the metros. Smaller towns lack infrastructure and facilities so players from there have to work harder." Dhoni added that it was the hunger to do well at the international level that made people achieve great things. "Whether it's the small-town guys or those from the metros, everyone wanted to perform at the international stage and they have been successful."
Dhoni admitted that he was a bit nervous about his maiden captaincy stint, but explained that his team helped him stay calm. "I think a little nervousness at this level is justified but the way all 15 players responded, I hardly had a reason to worry," he said. "Whoever I tossed the ball to fetched me wickets. Whoever walked out to bat, scored the runs. So the pressure was considerably less on me. Besides, the entire team had full faith in each other's abilities and that's important."
India's entry into the tournament as one of the less-fancied teams helped them go all the way, Dhoni said. "We were quite relaxed. We discussed the issue at the very first team meeting. We were not tipped favourites, nobody expected us to reach the Super Eights or knock-out stage. And whenever the expectation is less, the determination is high. We did not do well in the World Cup [in the West Indies] and so it was the perfect stage for the team. We took it one match at a time and treated the final as just another match and that helped."
The players also embarked on a victory lap in front of the fans, before a section of the crowd managed to break down the barricade and sneak on to the ground. The excited supporters ran after the players, and the lap was cut short mid-way as policemen escorted the players to safety.
As in South Africa, Dhoni and his men left a mark on their arrival in India as well. "We are told that Mumbai is a city which is always on the move. See, my boys and I have brought the entire city to a standstill today." And that they certainly did.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
A look at some of cricket's most memorable strokes - and their makers