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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 March, 2003, 12:40 GMT
India return to warm welcome
India's cricket chief, Jagmohan Dalmiya, said the national team had "done the country proud" despite returning home as beaten World Cup finalists.

India players walk from the field in the World Cup final
India were welcomed home as winners despite losing in the final

India were thrashed by 125 runs by Australia in the tournament decider in Johannesburg.

But Dalmiya welcomed the players with open arms when they returned home on Tuesday.

"Our team gave a tremendous performance and has done the country proud," Dalmiya, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), said.

"They played to their full potential and entered the final in a majestic way.

"Yes, we haven't won but on that day probably Australia were the better team on the field."

Fans who flocked to Bombay airport were waving national flags and chanting, "'long live India".

But skipper Sourav Ganguly was forced to field questions over his decision in the final to field after winning the toss, paving the way for Australia to post a record 359 for two.

"We had one off-day which shattered our dreams of winning the World Cup," he said.

"There was dampness on the pitch and I knew there was something for the seam bowlers

"We're definitely disappointed but we're happy we have played well overall in the tournament."

Last month, fans across India were buring effigies of the leading players following the team's early nine-wicket loss in the group stage to Australia.

Ganguly was given a mock funeral in Calcutta and black paint was hurled at middle-order batsman Mohammad Kaif's house in the northern city of Allahabad.

But the team were back in the supporters' favour after getting to the final.

"The team has given us a lot of good memories from this World Cup," said Bombay cricket fan Anurag Saxena.

"They may not have won, but they played like champions."

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12 Mar 03 |  World Cup
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