India euphoric after World Cup victory

India hasn't hosted a party like this for 28 years.

Many of the revelers who poured onto streets across the country weren't even born the last time India lifted the World Cup in 1983. In a nation which places cricket in a near religious context, the euphoria after Saturday's six-wicket win over Sri Lanka arose as much from relief as joy.

The sound of firecrackers continued through the night in Mumbai, the scene of India's success, and by 6am on Sunday morning, a few hardy fans were still riding around the city on motorbikes, flags waving behind them, eking every last moment of pleasure out of India's victory.

There was blanket coverage across India's news channels. Nothing else mattered. The newspapers dedicated page upon page to the historic win. "The World At Our Feet" was the headline on Sunday's edition of Times of India.

"The wait has ended and a new legend has been born," the newspaper said. "(India captain) Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his intrepid warriors now stand atop a pedestal hitherto occupied only Kapil's Devils."

Until Saturday, Kapil Dev's World Cup-winning squad of 1983 was revered as India's greatest sporting heroes. Now they've got company from the likes of Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar and Yuvraj Singh.

Tendulkar is the only member of the current squad old enough to really remember the exploits of Kapil and co and to have experienced the knock-on effects of their achievements.

The world's best batsman and India's greatest sportsman didn't play a major role in the final match, but he was given center stage in the celebrations. The picture of a tearful Tendulkar being carried around his home ground on the shoulders of his teammates will not only be one of the defining images of this World Cup, but of India's sporting history.

"Our one dream was to win it for India and for Sachin, and we've done it," Yuvraj said.

Cricket is regarded as a unifying force for India's 1.2 billion population, breaking down cultural and religious barriers. It was never more evident than in Saturday night's celebrations when millions celebrated together. They were wrapped in flags, had their faces painted with the tricolors of India, and wore the light blue replica team shirts.

"This is the only day when the whole of India is together," said Siraj Sawardekar, a 22-year-old I.T. worker who traveled to Mumbai to be part of the celebrations. "It is like an independence day for us."

India's politicians, dignitaries and celebrities queued up to heap praise on Dhoni and his players.

"I join the nation in congratulating the Indian cricket team on their victory," India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said. "The Indian team has made India proud."

Congress President Sonia Gandhi stopped her car to join the street celebrations in Delhi. Staying for about 20 minutes, she shook hands with fans, waved a flag and gave the v-for-victory sign. She said the win "will be etched in gold for generations to come."

India President Pratibha Patil watched the game at the Wankhede Stadium.

"All of you truly deserve the thanks of a billion-plus Indians," Patil said. "The road to success has been long and hard and you and your team were tested at every stage."

Celebrities and sports stars took to Twitter to share their emotions.

"The revelry on the road is to b seen to b believed!" tweeted Bollywood actress Shilpa Shetty. "India is celebrating and this is proof:) Never seen anything like this..Yippeeeeeeeee."

India's No. 1 tennis player Sania Mirza wrote: "Yeeaahhhh IIIINNDDIIAAA! Congratulations to all of you and Team India!! you boys have made more than a billion ppl proud and smile:) Thank you Team India:)God bless you."

The joy spread far and wide as Indians across the Gulf region, the U.K. and even in the U.S., a country not usually associated with cricket, joined the celebrations.

Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, continuing the goodwill engendered during India's semifinal against Pakistan, sent a message of congratulations to his Indian counterpart.

He commended the "excellent performance of the Indian team throughout the tournament as well as in the final match," and said the semifinal between the two countries would provide an "opportunity to their leadership to advance the peace process and build bridges of peace, trust and confidence."

In India, the victorious players are already reaping the financial rewards. The Board of Control for Cricket in India announced it would give each player 10 million rupees ($225,000).

Delhi's Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit pledged to give 20 million rupees to Dhoni, and 10 million to each of the four players from Delhi: Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli and Ashish Nehra.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Lizards, such as Iguanas (pictured), have a unique pattern of tissue growth
Anna Nicole Smith died of an accidental overdose in 2007
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
'The Great British Bake Off' showcases food at its most sumptuous
tvReview: Bread-making skills of the Bake Off hopefuls put to the test
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home