Mumbai’s famous Marine Drive, often called the Queen’s Necklace, is regularly thronged by tourists and Mumbaikars as they walk along the promenade and take in the cool breeze blowing in from the Arabian Sea.

However, on Thursday evening, all attention was on the sea of blue that submerged the Queen’s Necklace.

As far as the eye could see, the sea of people rivalled the vast expanse of the coastline. And why wouldn’t they? The men in blue were finally coming home, after all.

Rohit Sharma’s team had ended India’s 13-year wait for a World Cup after winning the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup held in the USA and the Caribbean Islands.

It has been 13 long years since India got out of the streets to celebrate a cricket victory. Young and old, all were welcome.

Thousands of fans await an open bus roadshow in Marine Drive, Mumbai|Credit: Samreen Razzaqui

‘Dream come true’

Thousands of fans packed Mumbai's Marine Drive and filled the Wankhede Stadium to capacity, eagerly awaiting the Indian team's open-top bus parade and celebration for their T20 World Cup victory.

One of them was Dr Ansh Kumar Singh, a General Surgery resident at INHS Asvini in Colaba. Neither the rain, the traffic, nor his long duty hours at the hospital could deter him. This encapsulated the essence of his Mumbai life – a blend of hustle and party.

After years of heartbreak and the recent disappointments at the World Test Championship and the ICC Men’s ODI World Cup, he knew, the celebration needed to be grander than ever.

“After attending to patients all day, I rushed to Marine Drive,” said Singh in a conversation with Scroll in Mumbai. “I didn’t think I would make it after seeing the traffic, but my friends encouraged me to come here and join the celebration.”

And so here he was, enjoying the view of the unending sea, under the palm trees that were swept by the monsoon winds with thousands of others.

“We hear so much about celebrities and cricketers here after being posted in Mumbai,” added Singh. “For a middle class boy from Uttarakhand, this is like a dream come true.”

For many, first of a kind

Indeed, after the setbacks Australia dished to India in the ICC events in the last year alone, the celebration was long overdue. For many, however, this World Cup win is a first of its kind.

Kawish Sahni was two years old when a similar party was held in Mumbai after India won the ODI World Cup in 2011. He had watched videos of the iconic MS Dhoni six, India’s inaugural T20 World Cup title in 2007 and heard stories about Kapil Dev in 1983. But Suryakumar Yadav’s catch to dismiss David Miller in Barbados will be etched in Sahni’s memory.

“It means a lot. I was very young then, this is basically my first World Cup win,” said Sahni. “I was crying! They needed 30 off 30 at one point. We gave our hopes up but Hardik Pandya came and Suryakumar Yadav’s catch turned it around.”

Thousands of fans await an open bus roadshow in Marine Drive, Mumbai|Credit: Samreen Razzaqui

Sahni, a student at Campion School, is part of the generation that has grown up on a healthy diet of watching modern day greats Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. While chants for the son of soil Sharma reverberated across the Mumbai streets, Sahni’s heart beat for Kohli.

“They all deserve our support. But I’m waiting to see Kohli the most,” added. “His struggle in the tournament… after being dismissed on single digit scores and ducks and performing like that in the final, he proved what he is actually made of.”

The team's arrival in Mumbai from Delhi was delayed and their bus parade in South Mumbai faced further setbacks due to massive crowds causing logistical challenges.

Even as rain bucketed down on South Mumbai, fans remain unmoved on the roads and to their seats in the stadium through the downpour.

Of fitting farewells

The victory itself was significant but its role as a fitting swansong in the shortest format for Kohli and Sharma added a bittersweet touch for many.

Chants of “humara captain kaisa ho? Rohit Sharma jaisa ho [Who should our captain be like? Like Rohit Sharma]” resonated in unison through the streets. Thunderous applause and endless cheers greeted him on stage inside the Wankhede Stadium, a venue that has embraced him warmly over the years.

“I have come walking from my office just to see Kohli,” said Anushika Gupta who works in the Indian Navy. “This will be my first time seeing him live, I haven’t got the chance to watch him in a stadium and this will be the first time. I am happy that it will be with the trophy.”

Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli dance with team mates during a ceremony at the Wankhede stadium in Mumbai on July 4, 2024. | Credit: Indranil MUKHERJEE / AFP

Such a reception and moments like these had the power to bring tears to anyone's eyes. Sharma, not known for showing his emotions readily, was also left speechless. Kohli, typically the masterful conductor in the stadium yielding the bat, was content this time to lead the stadium in singing Vande Mataram.

With these two approaching the twilight of their careers, it’s no surprise that fans want to cherish the remaining moments.

And so, as rain-washed streets shimmered under brightly lit street lamps, the party in Mumbai carried on. It was long overdue after all.