London: It may have been a nightmarish tour on field but off the field, Indian cricketers had an evening to remember when they were felicitated by the Indo-British Parliamentarians Group for their historic World Cup triumph earlier this year.
Britain`s former Foreign Secretary David Miliband presented a Crystal Cup to Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni at a Parliamentary Gala dinner held in honour of the team at the May Fair Hotel in central London last night.
In his brief address, Miliband said, "Team India has delighted us, frustrated us and inspired us. Our two countries are divided over the cricket field - you as World Cup winner and we as, atleast for the moment, No.1 Test Players in the world."
Miliband wished Sachin Tendulkar "quick recovery" from his toe injury which has ruled out the senior batsman from the ongoing ODI series. The injury-ravaged Indians had earlier lost the Test series 0-4.
"We love to see him get out but we love watching him play," he said.
Lauding Dhoni, Miliband said, "many youngsters in Britain consider him as their role model. The award presented to Dhoni is in recognition of India`s outstanding achievement in winning the World Cup.”
On his part, Dhoni admitted that "the performance of the team in the current tour has not been really good. We are trying our best."
A total of 19,000 pounds were raised for two charities -- Silver Star, the foremost South Asian diabetes charity founded by Rt Hon. Keith Vaz, MP and the M S Dhoni Foundation, created by Dhoni to nurture the talent -- by auctioning three cricket bats signed by the World Cup champions.
Two of the bats were bid by Subaskaran Allirajah, Chairman of Lycamobile for 6,000 pounds and 8,500 pounds. Lycamobile`s CEO Milind Kangle received the bats from Farooq Engineer, India`s former wicket-keeper batsman.
Leading NRI hotelier Surinder Arora got the third bat for 4,500 pounds.
Meanwhile, in his introductory address, Keith Vaz, Indian-origin Labour MP and President of the Indo-British Parliamentary Group expressed "deepest condolences to those who have suffered" as a result of the bomb blast in Delhi yesterday.
"That event reminds us that in this complicated world even though we have occasions for joy and celebration we also face tragedy."
Earlier in the day, Vaz took the Indian Team on a tour of the Parliament`s Westminster Hall built over a thousand years ago.
"Knowing that our guests were paying their first visit to Parliament as world champions the Speaker permitted us to go on the roof of the Chamber of the House of Commons very near the face of Big Ben," Vaz said.
"So it was, that one institution, the most famous clock in the world, managed to look at another - the most famous cricket team in the world, Team India."
At the top of the tower, Vaz presented a "Parliamentary Shield" to Dhoni.
He also introduced the team to Former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Leader of the opposition and Labour party leader Ed Miliband and several other MPs.
On way to the Mayfair Hotel, he took the team to Number 10, the office-cum residence of the Prime Minister.
"When I was first elected to Parliament I had the honour of welcoming Kapil Dev and his Team India to exactly the same place. It was an honour to see Kapil here this evening and also Engineer, one of history`s greatest wicket keepers," Vaz said.
Referring to the Doctorate conferred on Dhoni by De Montfort University, Vaz said, "Dhoni is now recognised as a global figure in the leadership of sport. Great leaders by their courage can unite a nation and that is what he and Team India have done."
Vaz also said that Leicester has offered to be the home of the first M S Dhoni Academy in the UK.
He told the gathering, "one day you will be able to tell your children and grandchildren you spent the evening of 7th September 2011 in the hotel where the Kings and Queens of England used to take tea at the height of the empire.
"That you were here with a different Royalty; you were here with the Kings of Cricket. A group of young men who have united a nation and enthralled the world and made us so immensely proud of our Indian heritage. A group of young men who have sealed forever the unbreakable bond between India and Britain and the Indian diaspora."