Kolkata: Around one thousand frenzied supporters gathered and danced well past midnight as the players of the newly-crowned IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders and team owners arrived from Chennai in two batches at the NSC Bose International Airport here. Photogallery: Poonam Pandey Tweetpics for KKR
Skipper Gautam Gambhir's three Bengali words "ami Kolkatar chhele" (I am son of the city) won the hearts of fans gathered to welcome 'home' the Knight Riders who beat two-time defending champions Chennai Super Kings to win their maiden title in five appearances.
"Thank you very much for your support," Gambhir added as the crowd danced to the drum beats when the team members arrived around 10.30pm last night.
Venky Mysore, the CEO of the Knight Riders, and coach Trevor Bayliss were among those on the crowded makeshift dais just outside the VIP Gate number five.
"I just want to say that we are very, very proud of the team. They have done a fantastic job under the captaincy of Gautam Gambhir. I want to thank you all for your support. I also want to thank our head coach Trevor Bayliss and Vijay Dahiya... he is hiding there, our assistant coach," Mysore said.
As many as 54 passengers on the Chennai-Calcutta flight were from the KKR contingent, including the families of some of the players and the support staff. The foreign players in the team didn't board the flight.
Team owners Shah Rukh Khan, Jay Mehta and Juhi Chawla arrived around 11.45 pm as they were thrilled at the crowd response late into the night.
Chawla, dressed in a maroon top and white trousers, said, "It feels really special to see you people here every time. It's because of your support we could win the title. I thank Chief Minister ( Mamata Banerjee) for the grand welcome."
Shah Rukh Khan also joined in and said, "From today, KKR belongs to Bengal...Thank you very much for your support. We're extremely happy to see all of you here."
who were waiting with bouquets and garlands as they jostled for the limelight on the makeshift dias.
For many of the fans, however, it was a long wait as the news earlier was that the team members were landing at 7am but only to learn later that they would arrive in two batches with more than three hours delay.
But they waited patiently, dancing to the drum beats and waving KKR flags.
Slogans like 'Three cheers for KKR, hip hip hurrah', 'KKR, KKR', 'Shah Rukh, Shah Rukh' rent the air as fans dressed in KKR jersey and carrying purple flags gathered at the airport.
Many had come with lifesize posters of Shah Rukh Khan and team captain Gautam Gambhir. There were also posters with congratulatory messages.
Sandhya Dubey was part of a 10-member family who had come to welcome the players.
"We love cricket and we live in Kolkata for more than three decades. The love for the Knight Riders is obvious. The final was so exciting that we could not resist coming to the airport to cheer for our champions," she said with her children shouting 'KKR... KKR'.
40-year-old Ajit Kundu had come from Bhowanipore with KKR colours painted on his face as he kept on shouting 'Three cheers for KKR, hip hip hurray.'
"Like the team celebrated last night, we too at our club danced to the victory by distributing sweets. KKR has made Bengal proud," he said.
The city has witnessed many such frenzied atmosphere in the past.
Be it when Diego Maradona or Lionel Messi arrived on two separate occasions, the Mohun Bagan-East Bengal rivalry which is a part of football folklore or the electrifying atmosphere of the Eden Gardens. It was then no surprise that there would be delirious scenes to welcome KKR players.
Kolkata: Around one thousand frenzied supporters gathered and danced well past midnight as the players of the newly-crowned IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders and team owners arrived from Chennai in two batches at the NSC Bose International Airport here.
Photogallery: Poonam Pandey Tweetpics for KKR