Red carpet welcome for Rahane as victorious Indian team arrives home

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MUMBAI/NEW DELHI/HYDERABAD, Jan 21 (PTI): Chants of ‘aala re aala Ajinkya aala’ headlined a red carpet welcome for Ajinkya Rahane on his triumphant return from Australia with some other teammates but the mood was sombre in Hyderabad as one of his warriors, Mohammed Siraj, headed straight to his father’s grave.

The chants (meaning here comes our Ajinkya) were heard amid the beating of the traditional dhol tasha and showering of flower petals at Rahane’s residential complex.

Besides stand-in captain Rahane, also arriving in Mumbai were coach Ravi Shastri, star batsman Rohit Sharma, pacer Shardul Thakur and opener Prithvi Shaw, while Brisbane Test hero Rishabh Pant landed in the national capital early on Thursday morning.

Siraj, who decided to stay put in Australia with the team and miss his father’s last rites, drove straight from Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport to the graveyard and paid his last respects to his departed father Mohammed Ghouse.

It was the end of a two-month long wait for the speedster, who was India’s top performer with the ball during the trip.

Siraj’s 53-year-old father, who was an auto driver, had died on November 20 due to a lung ailment. This was just a week after his son landed in Australia with the Indian team on his maiden tour.

He was given the option of returning home but he decided otherwise and broke down thinking about him when the national anthem was played before the Sydney Test.

He made his Test debut in the second match in Melbourne and finished the Border-Gavaskar series with 13 wickets – the most by any Indian bowler.

T Natarajan, who was originally picked as a net bowler but became the first Indian cricketer to make his international debut across all three formats during the same tour, landed in Bengaluru and then took off for his village in Tamil Nadu’s Salem.

The players from Chennai, including veteran off-spinner Ravichandran Ashwin, rookie Washington Sundar and bowling coach Bharat Arun are currently in Dubai and are expected to reach the country early morning on Friday.

On arrival in Mumbai, Rahane, Shastri, Rohit, Shardul and Shaw were felicitated by Mumbai Cricket Association (MCA) officials, including president Vijay Patil and Apex Council members Ajinkya Naik, Amit Dani and Umesh Khanvilka.

Rahane also cut a cake to celebrate the team’s win.

However, more surprises awaited the reticent batsman after he drove straight to his housing society in suburban Matunga, where residents had made elaborate preparations to accord their hero a royal welcome.

Rahane was welcomed with the beats of dhol, while others showered the cricketer with flower petals.

Rahane was also joined by his wife and two-year-old daughter in the celebration.

Soaking in the carnival-like atmosphere, Rahane acknowledged the love and adulation showered on him by the people of the city, many of whom waited for his team at the airport wearing masks amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

In his society, residents and videographers jostled to capture the moments and the unassuming batsman posed happily for them.

Rahane was then greeted in a traditional manner as he walked towards the entrance of the building.

Dhol tasha is usually played to celebrate special achievements and during joyous occasions.

An injury-ravaged India beat Australia by three wickets in the series-deciding fourth Test in Brisbane on Tuesday to clinch the rubber 2-1 and retain the Border Gavaskar Trophy.

Stepping in after the catastrophe in Adelaide in the absence of Virat Kohli, Rahane led by example with a classic century in the second Test at Melbourne, guiding India to a series-levelling victory.

There was no looking back after that as Rahane inspired a heavily-depleted Indian team to an unbelievable series triumph against a full-strength Australian team that possessed the world’s best bowling attack.

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