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Red carpet welcome for Ajinkya Rahane as victorious Indian team arrives home

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Mumbai: Chants of ‘aala re aala Ajinkya aala’ headlined a red carpet welcome for Ajinkya Rahane as the stand-in captain, along with coach Ravi Shastri and some other members of the team, returned to the country on Thursday after India’s epic triumph in Australia.

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 Rahane and Shastri, also arriving in Mumbai were star batsman Rohit Sharma, pacer Shardul Thakur and opener Prithvi Shaw, while Brisbane Test hero Rishabh Pant landed in the national capital early this morning.

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.

Siraj pays tributes to his father on return from Australia

Hyderabad: Mohammad Siraj, who played an instrumental role in Team India’s series win Down Under, visited his father’s grave on his return from Australia on Thursday. The Hyderabad bowler remembered his father Mohammed Ghaus who passed away on November 20 while he was in Australia. Siraj could not return home for the funeral due to Covid-19 protocol.

Playing his maiden Test series, Siraj claimed 13 scalps in three Tests he played in the four-match Test series including a five-wicket haul on Day 4 of the Gabba Test where India beat Aussies by three wickets.

Following this, Siraj had remembered his father saying, “It was a tough situation, dad’s demise. I got strength after talking to mom and my focus was to realise dad’s dream. I got mentally strong with their support. I felt that whatever was dad’s desire, I have to fulfil that. It got fulfilled.”

In the previous match,  the 26-year-old was seen getting emotional when the national anthem was being played at the Sydney Cricket Ground. In a video which surfaced on social media, the lanky fast bowler was seen wiping his tears rolling down his face when both teams lined up for their anthems.

In the same match at SCG, the Hyderabad cricketer also showed his determination when he and Jasprit Bumrah both were subject to racial abuse. Siraj took a firm stance and reported the matter immediately to authorities. Six spectators were ejected out of the SCG.

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