Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's march with the Indian Premier League champions Kolkata Knight Riders began on Tuesday with huge crowds at Eden Gardens as well as on the streets. Thousands of frenzied fans gave a grand reception to the newly-crowned IPL champions as the players celebrated their triumph with a open-top bus victory parade moving towards the Eden Gardens in Kolkata on Tuesday.
More than 50,000 people lined up both sides of the road as the players, led by Gautam Gambhir, waved to them from a flower-bedecked, open-top bus during the 5-km journey that began from south Kolkata's Hazra Crossing. The players were also seen clicking photographs of the frenzied scenes in front of them, while security forces had a tough time controlling the crowd as people surged forward and made frantic attempts to touch the players.
Wild cheers went up as the players boarded the trailer, on which was written in blue and white - "Korechi, Lorechi, Jitechi Re" ("We have done it, we have fought it, we have won it"). People threw bouquets at the players, who hurled them back at the crowd. However, there was some disappointment as team co-owner and Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan was not present in the parade. He did arrive later though, and, along with the team, presented the cup to the Chief Minister at the Writers' Building.
Afterwards, the actor, his co-owners and the team players were present at a special felicitation ceremony held at Eden Gardens, where more crowds had been waiting anxiously for the victorious team to arrive. There was music and dancing to entertain them, with popular Bengali singer Jojo singing famous Bengali songs to get the crowds shaking their legs.
Earlier on Monday night, around a thousand frenzied supporters gathered and danced well past midnight as the players and team owners arrived from Chennai in two batches to a hero's welcome at the NSC Bose International Airport. Skipper Gautam Gambhir's three Bengali words - "ami Kolkatar chhele" ("I am a son of the city") won the hearts of fans who welcomed 'home' the team that beat two-time defending champions Chennai Super Kings to win their maiden title in five appearances on Sunday. "Thank you very much for your support," Gambhir told the crowd as they danced to drum beats when the team members arrived around 10.30pm local time on Monday.
Fans dressed in KKR jerseys waving the purple flags had come from all over the city and waited patiently, as shouts of 'KKR... KKR', 'Shah Rukh, Shah Rukh' reverberated at the airport. 40-year-old Ajit Kundu had come from Bhowanipore with KKR colours painted on his face and 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 have made Bengal proud," he said. Many had come with life-size posters of Shah Rukh Khan and team captain Gambhir. There were also posters with congratulatory messages.
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 and were thrilled by the crowd response even late into the night. "From today, KKR belongs to Bengal...Thank you very much for your support. We're extremely happy to see all of you here. You have given us so much love. We are extremely happy to do for the city what we wanted to do for Kolkata, and Bengal and its people," said Shah Rukh Khan.
Venky Mysore, the CEO of Kolkata Knight Riders, and coach Trevor Bayliss were among those on the crowded makeshift dais erected just outside the VIP Gate No. 5 to welcome the team. There were also a bevy of Trinamool Congress (TMC) ministers, party leaders and officials of the Cricket Association of Bengal who were waiting with bouquets and garlands as they jostled for limelight on the dias.
The team, led by Gambhir and local hero Manoj Tiwary, was felicitated outside the airport by three state ministers and a Trinamool Congress MP. Each team member was introduced on the stage to rousing applause from the fans who had gathered there.