Mahendra Singh Dhoni's boys were already superstars before the World Cup campaign, but after Saturday's victory they are surely the cynosure of all eyes
At a tea party organised at Raj Bhavan by President Pratibha Patil to felicitate the Indian cricket team, the who's who in the world of business and politics were present, but the attention the Men in Blue commanded could have turned any of those dignitaries green with envy. But envy was far outdone by adoration as even the VVIPs jostled for a closer glimpse of 'India's Most Wanted'.
Businessmen including Mukesh Ambani, Gautam Singhania, Adi Godrej, Kumar Mangalam Birla and Vijay Kalantri and politicians like Sharad Pawar, Vilasrao Deshmukh and chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, were present as President Pratibha Patil, accompanied by her husband, congratulated each player individually before presenting them flower bouquets. Several VVIPs were accompanied by their family members, especially children, keen to get a closer look of their cricketing idols.
Other guests and journalists at the function also tailed the Indian players throughout the event, for autographs and photographs with their heroes. And most of those heroes did. The Indian team players signed autographs on request and posed for pictures, even as some of them seemed a bit overwhelmed by the frenzy.
This was the first official ceremony to celebrate the team's World Cup victory. The team arrived at the event around 5.30 pm and headed back to their hotel at Colaba an hour later.
Governor K Sankarnarayanan was also present for the ceremony where Chavan announced Rs 1 crore each from the state government for Maharashtrian-born Sachin Tendulkar and Zaheer Khan. He also announced Rs 50 lakh each for the team's support staff members from Maharashtra. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had earlier announced a similar reward package for the entire support crew.
The team had also brought the World Cup trophy with them. At one point, some of those present also lifted the Cup and took photographs with it. While the frenzy made it difficult for the players to relax during the event, nobody was seen complaining.
Balwinder Singh Sandhu, who was part of the 1983 World Cup winning team, was also present to congratulate the stars as were cricket administrators IS Bindra, Niranjan Shah, Rajiv Shukla and ICC chief executive officer Haroon Lorgat.
Some cricketers including Tendulkar and Dhoni were accompanied by their wives. After the ceremony, many cricketers interacted with print and electronic media personnel.
Outside, traffic was slow moving at Walkeshwar and Marine Drive. Motorists in south Mumbai were inconvenienced as VIP vehicles pulled into Raj Bhavan on Sunday evening amid tight security supervised by senior city police and traffic police officials.