JAMAICA'S West Indies cricketers Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels returned home yesterday to a heroes' welcome by government ministers and schoolchildren at the Norman Manley International Airport.
Both cricketers were hosted at the airport's Pineapple Lounge by sponsors Digicel and the Jamaica Cricket Association in a meet-and-greet session followed by a press conference.
Then two police outriders escorted the 10-car entourage in a 25-minute drive to Jamaica House where Gayle and Samuels met Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to more hugs and kisses.
The prime minister, who was instrumental in getting Gayle back into the West Indies fold after a near two-year stand-off with the West Indies Cricket Board, was presented with an autographed West Indies T-shirt by both players.
Simpson Miller, in return, handed over two art tokens to the Windies stars of which both promised to keep in their bedrooms.
"You have made me so happy," said Miller of the two cricketers who played crucial roles in the West Indies winning the International Cricket Council's (ICC) World Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka last Sunday.
"You should have heard me screaming. You have made us so proud. Even when they were interviewing the captain (Darren) Sammy you guys were saying Jamaica, Jamaica in the background," noted the prime minister.
The Windies defeated host country Sri Lanka by 36 runs to lift their first world title since the 50-over World Cup triumph under Clive Lloyd in 1979, although they won the invitational Champions Trophy in England in 2004.
Both Gayle and Samuels played starring roles in the Windies triumph, and as a result, were the only two West Indians to be selected to the ICC All-Star team.
Gayle finished fourth in the batting aggregates with 222 runs with a strike rate of 150 and rose to number two in the world ranking, while Samuels jumped 20 places to 18 after finishing third with 230 runs and a strike rate of 132.94.
Gayle, a former Excelsior High student, thanked the organisers for the warm welcome and hospitality and said he was happy to play his part in bringing back smiles on the faces of the West Indian people.
"It's good to see the smiles on all your faces, it makes me very proud I did this for you all. It is good to be back home we have enjoyed every moment of this T20 tournament and happy to be champion for the first time. Hopefully, this is the start of many things to come for West Indies cricket," he said.
Gayle pointed out that his absence from West Indies cricket for a year-and-a-half, was "devastating" and he thanked Simpson Miller for her intervention in getting him back into the team.
Jamaica's Andre Russell, the third Jamaican on the West Indies team, did not arrive as he had other overseas engagements.
Gayle was also full of praises for his teammate Samuels.
"Samuels' contribution towards the team is marvellous. His innings in the finals is one of the best T20 innings I have ever seen and to destroy of one the greatest bowlers Malinga (and) he did that at a crucial time for us," noted Gayle.
Samuels, whose 78 from 56 balls earned him the Man of the Match Award in the final and who has been in the form of his life since returning from a two-year ban, spoke briefly.
"I want to say thank you for today, it means a lot to us and it's been a tough road but in the end it has been wonderful and this is wonderful time for West Indies cricket," said Samuels.