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Mumbai takes to streets as India quench 28-year thirst

 MUMBAI: The roads of Mumbai were virtually deserted for almost 10 hours on Saturday but the moment Mahendra Singh Dhoni belted a six to end India's 28-year wait for the World Cup title, thousands of people poured on to the streets to celebrate the win.

The city, known for its snarling traffic, was the best place to go on a long drive from about noon till 2200 IST provided the route stayed away from the vicinity of the Wankhede Stadium, the venue of the final.

Traffic towards the stadium was diverted on a number of junctions as Mumbai's famous Marine Drive, which runs parallel to the Arabian Sea, looked virtually like a fortress.

Anti-aircraft guns were placed at strategic locations, navy boats patrolled the coastline while elite security agencies completed the dragnet in the city which was targeted by militants in 2008.

Government offices were shut in Mumbai while private sector workers mostly had a half-day before they rushed home or found a bar to cheer India on to their second title after 28 years.

Shivaji Park, famous as the breeding ground for India's batting greats Sunil Gavaskar and Sachin Tendulkar, usually buzzes with life during the weekends with its numerous academies and training centres.On Saturday, there was not a single person on the huge field as fans made a beeline to a lane nearby. A giant screen with some live music attracted more than 5000 supporters, comprising people from all age groups and all strata of life. "We couldn't get tickets. So we came here to get a feel of the atmosphere and a bit of crowd," said 19-year old Sakshi, dressed in an Indian cricket team jersey, with her voice barely audible due to the din created by drums and decks. "A lot of my friends have also joined me here and it's like watching the match live at the ground." Every Sri Lankan wicket and every Indian boundary was greeted with the same frenzy and the crowd broke into a wild jig on every opportunity.

The early dismissal of Sachin Tendulkar, sobered the assembled multitude, but as India's chase came back on track again and ended with Dhoni's massive shot over long on, it signalled the start of a night-long celebration.

People hugged each other in random abundance and stood on their bikes while vigorously waving the Indian flag.

"This is once in a life-time experience. My throat is choked and I had tears in my eyes once we won," Aakash Moondhra, 37, who works in the private equity business in Delhi, said before boarding a flight back to his city.

Moondhra was one of the lucky few who paid the original price for a ticket 5,000 rupees and gained entry into the stadium with 33,000 other fans.

Tickets with a face value of 5,000 Indian rupees ($112.5) for the final were changing hands at more than 12 times the price. "I was a bit worried before I paid almost 11 times the original price for the ticket. I thought I could have watched at home on television," 45-year old Ram Kumar, the president of a software and BPO company in Mumbai, said. "I would have made a mistake. It doesn't get bigger than this. This was the match that mattered. "I would have paid 500, 000 rupees if needed."

Copyright Reuters, 2011