For Mumbaikars Thursday felt like an action replay of 2007 when young captain MS Dhoni won the T20 World Cup and Team India was paraded past enthusiastic fans that had lined up the roads from CSMIA, Mumbai, to Wankhede stadium. Cut to 2024: the shine was on Borivali boy Rohit Sharma who bought laurels by being the first captain from Mumbai to lay his hands on the coveted trophy.

Traffic jam after cricket enthusiast gathered for Team India’s victory parade outside Wankhade Stadium on Thursday. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)

Lakhs gathered along both sides of the Marine Drive promenade as choric chants of ‘Mumbai ka raja, Rohit Sharma’ filled the air.

Keval Shah, a professional who works in the health sector, came to the city from Ahmedabad on Thursday morning to be a part of the moment. “This might seem like an excess to others, but this is what I wanted to do – see the players after their achievement. I had the opportunity and time,” he said, holding aloft the tricolour.

He stayed with friends in Bandra, and returned to Ahmedabad on a midnight flight. “I took a day off work specifically for this,” he added.

Even before their flight landed at the airport at 4pm, cricket fans donning Team India jerseys had thronged Marine Drive. Some were in such a hurry to get to Wankhede stadium that they jumped tracks at Churchgate station, uncaring of incoming trains. Fans climbed tree tops and terraces of building to catch a glimpse of the victory parade and players on the open bus.

Saniya Pal, a dental student from Navi Mumbai had been waiting here since 3pm. “I came early assuming I wouldn’t face crowd. But that wasn’t the case. When I arrived, there was already a sea of people. I had skipped my classes today. But this was very important to me,” she said. “You see thousands of people, and not a single sad face in the crowd. All of us have chosen to celebrate the moment and will wait till they arrive.”

Honey Vaghasia, a Class 12 student from Kandivali said, “I finished my classes and arrived here by 5pm, panicking that I may have missed my moment. However, the players’ arrival was delayed and I was happy. This victory is not just Team India’s but of each cricket fan.”

As the promenade became thick with people, chief minister Eknath Shinde directed Mumbai police commissioner Vivek Phansalkar to ensure that there was no mismanagement or inconvenience caused to those gathered at Marine drive and Wankhede Stadium. As traffic police focussed on crowd management, some fans were seen playing cricket on the road waiting for the players, using a tripod as a bat and an ordinary cricket ball. The rain failed to dampen their spirit.

The Western Railways opened extra ticket counters for the ease of fans. Extra security was also deployed at Churchgate, Marine Lines and Charni Road stations for systematic crowd management.

Marine Drive residents get best view

Balconies and terraces of buildings on the promenade filled up as residents enjoyed their vantage point to take pictures. “There were at least 30 people on my terrace, ten of them from the building while the rest were outsiders. All of us enjoyed the parade. My wife and children have joined the crowd, but I haven’t done so yet,” said Ashok Gupta whose house overlooks the Wankhede Stadium. “Many people had called me up asking about the view and if they could join me. They were all welcome, but they could not make it because of the traffic.”

Gupta called the mass of people “a sight never seen before”. At the parade 13 years ago, he said, he had witnessed a quarter of strength that showed up on Thursday.

Rooms in hotels on the stretch were booked to the brim as well. “There were around 30 to 40 people with me at the Intercontinental Hotel’s rooftop restaurant,” said Dr Rahul Baxi, who had walked from his work place of Bombay Hospital at 3:30pm. “I know the owner, so I came to watch the Indian team return home with the trophy. As rooms at the Trident Hotel were an exorbitant 29,000, many booked rooms at the Intercontinental at 18,000.”

However, despite the cheer, some feared a stampede-like situation in the light of the tragedy at Hathras that killed over a hundred. “When fans came to know the bus was going to come from NCPA, they started running which caused anxiety,” he said.

Another Marine Drive resident, Mahendra Hemdev, who was helping the police to keep the crowd in line, said, “Such a massive crowd was not organised well. People were stuck in their cars for over an hour just a kilometre away. We almost had a stampede-like situation. Some experienced hooliganism on the streets as well. Common people should not be made to suffer for the sake of celebration.”