New Delhi: India cricketers got a euphoric welcome as they returned to their hometowns even as cash prizes continue to flow in following their World Cup triumph.
Even as the country debates on whether the original World Cup trophy was handed over to champions India Saturday night at the Wankhede, though International Cricket Council (ICC) admitted they did, fans cared less about this and turned out it large numbers to cheer for the heroes on their return.
Delhi boy Gautam Gambhir, who scored a fabulous 97 in the final, returned home to a delightful welcome by fans waving national flags.
"It was the most important knock till now, but my best is yet to come," said Gambhir to the waiting mediapersons.
Crowds shouted "Gautam Gambhir zindabad" (long live Gautam Gambhir) as the city`s cricketing hero reached his home in Rajendra Nagar in central Delhi.
Admirers of all ages, including residents, shopkeepers and students from nearby government teacher`s training school, crowded in front of the house for a glimpse of Gambhir.
Gambhir did not disappoint his fans. He came to the balcony and waived to the crowd.
India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his wife Sakshi also landed in Delhi to attend a friend`s party. Officials at the Delhi airport had a tough time in handling the jubilant fans, who all wanted to have a picture with the Dhonis.
Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh also got a grand welcome after on arriving in Chandigarh. Harbhajan, who stays in the upscale Sector 9, paid obeisance at a gurudwara in the neighbouring town of Sohana, before leaving for his home town of Jalandhar, some 150 km from here, to meet his mother Avtar Kaur.
He is also expected to visit Sant Ajit Singh, the head of Nirmal dera, based in Hansali village Fatehgarh Sahib town of Punjab, in the coming days. Ajit Singh is also the guru of Harbhajan`s team mate Yuvraj Singh.
Suresh Raina also followed the divine route before returning to his home town of Mohan Nagar in Ghaziabad.
Raina, who played crucial knocks in the quarterfinal and the semifinal, offered prayers at the Shridi shrine as the Uttar Pradesh government announced a cash award of Rs.10 lakh each to Raina and Piyush Chawla, the two players from the state in the winning squad.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati in a message sent to both the players said: "You have done UP (Uttar Pradesh) proud."
Spinner R Ashwin, who featured in just two matches in India`s successful World Cup campaign but made his presence felt with a terrific show against Australia,
was accorded a warm welcome in his native place, Chennai.
A few excited fans lifted the shy cricketer on their shoulders and some other welcomed him by burning firecrackers.
Ahswin`s parents arranged for a care-cutting ceremony on the occasion.
Minister of Civil Aviation Vayalar Ravi also announced that four Air India would promote four members of the winning squad.
"M.S. Dhoni, Harbhajan Singh, Yuvraj Singh and Suresh Raina will soon get a promotion for being part of the winning Indian team. They are already officers and it is a normal practice (to give them promotion)," Ravi said.
The Punjab government also announced cash rewards for Yuvraj and Harbhajan, while Gujarat government said that Munaf Patel and Yusuf Pathan will be conferred with the highest sports award, "Eklavya Puruskar." The award comprises Rs. 1 lakh, a memento and a certificate of honour.