India unites to celebrate victory over Pakistan

Updated: Mar 31, 2011, 09:32 AM IST

New Delhi: An overjoyed Indian nation erupted in undisguised ecstasy Wednesday as Team India crushed Pakistan in a World Cup cricket semifinal that at one stage seemed going the other way.

Across hundreds of cities and smaller towns, innumerable thousands -- perhaps millions -- poured on to the streets dancing, shouting, screaming, beating drums and bursting firecrackers as the last Pakistani batsman fell in the final over at 10.45 p.m. in Punjab`s Mohali town.

In many places, impromptu processions were taken out. Complete strangers hugged one another, repeating parrot like: "We have done it! We have done it! We have defeated Pakistan!"

As the Pakistani challenge ended in the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) stadium, watched by a cheerful Manmohan Singh and a glum Yousuf Raza Gilani of Pakistan, the Indian mood was epitomized by Congress president Sonia Gandhi who stood up and raised both hands in sheer joy.

At the same time, millions all across the country who had been glued to their televisions since afternoon -- when India chose to bat -- rose like one man for a boisterous celebration that continued beyond midnight.

Thousands of firecrackers exploded in city after city, lighting up the night sky. From Mohali to Thiruvananthapuram, from Mumbai to Shillong, from the young to adults, from soldiers on the India-Pakistan border to industrialists, from street corners to pubs, there was no stopping anyone, anywhere.

Bollywood joined them -- with stars tweeting their joy over a victory that takes India to the final in Mumbai where they will face a determined Sri Lanka Saturday.

Bangalore and the rest of Karnataka saw some of the loudest celebrations. Young men zipped around on motorcycles and cars honking, whistling and shouting slogans hailing Indian captain M.S. Dhoni and his men.

Hyderabad was no different. The city`s skies lighted up with firecrackers soon after Misbah-ul-Haq was caught by Virat Kohli off the bowling of Zaheer Khan in the last over. Waving Indian flags, young men took to the streets raising slogans of "Bharat mata ki jai".

"It is a great moment. I had kept my Diwali crackers ready for this victory. We have reached the World Cup final and have also beaten Pakistan. It is simply amazing," entrepreneur Sunny Singh told IANS in Mohali which Wednesday was the epicentre of some explosive cricket.

Man of the Match Sachin Tendulkar`s hometown Mumbai was not to be left behind. There was veritable madness after Pakistan`s captain Shahid Afridi -- a fighter to the core -- was caught by Virender Sehwag off the bowling of Harbajan Singh.

The roar of firecrackers and the pounding of drums in Mumbai reached a peak when the game ended.

Similar celebrations were reported from Kolkata, Chandigarh, Delhi, Chennai, Panaji, Shillong, Guhawati, Bhopal, Raipur, Lucknow, Patna and of course Dhoni`s hometown Ranchi -- and everywhere else.

The celebrations were in complete contrast to the stillness that enveloped India when the game began in Mohali.

For over seven of the eight hours when the match lasted, it wasn`t clear who would win -- India or Pakistan. Streets across India thinned out while offices and workplaces reported poor attendance right from the morning.

Every Indian run was cheered and every four and six led to joyous eruptions. And there were tense moments when, at one time, it looked as if a resurgent Pakistan might outclass India.

But it was not to be -- and India celebrated.

IANS