The left-arm pacer was welcomed by giant billboards as scores of fans gathered from nearby villages to give him a royal welcome.
“I am elated. I cannot express my happiness in words. I never expected this kind of reception. I thank my fans, friends, relatives and villagers,’’ Natarajan said, soaking in the adulation as ‘chenda melam’ beats and firecrackers added to the festive spirit. Natarajan had not met his two-month-old daughter till now as he went straight to Australia from the United Arab Emirates following the IPL.
“He would often make video calls to wife Pavithra and see the baby. He was waiting for this day when he would meet his daughter for the first time,’’ said a neighbour.
The emotional moment of the father seeing his baby, though, was kept private.
Natarajan, who drove down from Bengaluru, stopped his car on the outskirts of his village on seeing the crowd that had gathered. His father Thangaraj, mother T Shantha and sister Thilagavathi were among the first to receive him.
“We were so used to the notion that great achievements only came from big cities. But here we are witnessing someone so great from our own neighbourhood,” said Devayani, a college student from Chinnappampatti.
There was a horse-drawn chariot waiting for Natarajan. The ‘king’ of Chinnappampatti took about two hours on his royal vehicle to cover the two kilometres back home, wading through the lanes of his village brimming with excited fans.
“Why is there such a crowd?” an elderly woman asked. And when told that a cricket player has returned, she shot back: “Is it Natarajan?” It indicated how deep an impression the mild-mannered boy, who first played cricket with a leather ball at the age of 19, has made on the minds of his people.