Euphoria continues over India's series win

Published: Saturday, April 17, 2004, 1:24 [IST]
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New Delhi:Congratulations, champagne and cash flowed in India after Saurav Ganguly and his boys in blue snatched a maiden cricket Test series victory on Pakistani soil.

A delighted cricket chief Jagmohan Dalmiya immediately announced a five million rupee (1.2 million dollar) reward for the players, while national leaders clogged with phone lines with good wishes and fans uncorked champagne at home.

Indian President Abdul Kalam led the nation in hailing skipper Ganguly and his team, minutes after they beat Pakistan by an innings and 131 runs in the third and final Test to clinch the series 2-1 in the city of Rawalpindi.

"My hearty congratulations to all of you on this historic and fantastic win that you have registered...," Kalam, the architect of India's nuclear missiles, said in a message relayed to Ganguly.

"The whole nation is proud of you ... this has been made possible by admirable team effort," Kalam said.

Ganguly's squad also won the One-day series, making a clean sweep in India's first full tour of Pakistan in almost 15 years, which came amid warming ties between the two South Asian nations who have fought two of their three wars over Kashmir since 1947.

India's Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani appeared happy beyond words.

"This is a dream come true for the Indian players and the people of the country," Advani said, adding that he was euphoric that the 40-day tour had "ended on a happy note."

Political pundits say Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party had gambled on a win in Pakistan to gain mileage in upcoming Parliamentary polls which are being fought on the planks of robust economy, good ties with Pakistan and the cricket.

"The One-day and the Test series has generated a lot of expectations and goodwill," Advani said as motorists tapped their horns and fans burst firecrackers across the country.

The BJP has credited the premier for paving the way for the tour of Pakistan but Vajpayee in an overnight television chat show said the idea for the clash of willows had first come from Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf.

Parliament Speaker Murli Manohar Joshi counted the benefits of the historic tour, which has also generated more than 20 million dollars in advertisements and TV endorsements.

"The Indian team has not only won the Test series, but also the hearts of people of Pakistan... The series will definitely help in building in people-to-people contacts," Joshi said.

India's first overseas series victory since Sri Lanka in 1993 also made Ganguly his country's most successful Test captain, surpassing the previous record of 14 wins by Mohammad Azharuddin.

And Ganguly's cricket-mad home city of Kolkata exploded with celebratory firecrackers, witnesses said.

Man of the Series Virender Sehwag's home in the Najafgarh suburbs of New Delhi was bursting at the seams with fans and neighbours who wanted to shake hands with his father and relatives as the national capital prepared to party well through the night.

"The moment the last wicket fell in Rawalpindi we ordered extra stocks of whisky and champagne for tonight because the sales will boom after what has happened," said Sunil Rehani of a state-run liquor store in the eastern sections of New Delhi.

Former Test cricketers such as Sandip Patil, Polly Umrigar and Chandu Borde sounded euphoric.

"For India to win a Test series in Pakistan is itself a fantastic performance. But to win the One-day series and then the Test series is simply breathtaking," said former skipper Umrigar in Mumbai.

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