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Enjoying the euphoria

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Indians avidly support their boys in blue as they traipse around ANZ at the CWC 2015

Some said Adelaide on February 15 was an aberration. It could only happen because it was India versus Pakistan in the Cricket World Cup. And because the two teams were playing each other after a while. For a clash as significant as this one, fans would make it a point to travel the world. And they did. Scenes outside the Adelaide oval in the aftermath of India’s win were unbelievable. Fans chanting ‘Chak De India’ had taken over this rather quiet city, and it was bhangra and more all night.

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Interestingly however, Adelaide was just the first step in this Indian takeover of Australia. A week later, fan presence at the MCG was more intense and more passionate. A sea of 80,000 plus Indian fans had crammed into the world’s biggest cricket stadium and once the South Africans were crushed, the party
continued late into the night. Indian television correspondents trying to do their live updates were hurled up and down by hysterical fans, and it was a sight Australians in Melbourne had never seen before

Speaking to travel operators and local organizers in the aftermath enjoying the euphoria Indians avidly support their boys in blue as they traipse around ANZ at the CWC 2015 of the Melbourne madness, the consensus was that the frenzy would soon die down. Most argued that because the Pakistan and South Africa matches were within a week of each other, fans travelling to Australia could plan a week-long sports holiday well in advance. India was playing the UAE next, and there was no way fans would stay on for 12 more days to see the India-West Indies contest at Perth. To our pleasant surprise, this prediction was way off the mark. Perth, and the WACA more specifically, witnessed yet another Indian takeover on March 6. Of the 18,000 spectators in the stadium for the India-West Indies contest, Indians numbered close to 17,000 and most of them opted to play holi outside the WACA at the end of the game. Geoff Marsh, an Australian
legend and a Perth local, said it nicely, “The passion was infectious. It was extraordinary to see Indian fans enjoy themselves so much. This is what makes India such an important cricket playing nation. The World Cup owes a lot to these fans who have travelled from all over to come and cheer their team.”

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Marsh is correct. The Indian takeover of the WACA draws attention to a number of things. irst, it is heartening to see that despite the BCCI’s neglect of this key constituency of Indian cricket, fans continue to support the national team in the most intense manner. Second, these are the men and women who have given the 50 over game a new lifeline, and it is because of them that the organizers are reasonably satisfied with the goings on so far in CWC 2015. In fact, it came as no surprise to me when I was told that the South Australian government had decided on giving up claims to a semi-final or final, and had opted to host an India-Pakistan blockbuster instead

Interestingly, in no other sport do we see a fan monopoly like we do in cricket. It is important to state that no Olympic sports witness this level of fan frenzy. Never did the British dance all night when Mo Farah or Jess Ennis were winning multiple Olympic gold medals at home. And to expect an American or Jamaican takeover of London when Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt shatters one world record after another, is no more than a sporting utopia. Yes, the German fans did party all night in Berlin after the Football World Cup victory, but to expect a German takeover of Rio in the manner the Indians took over Melbourne, would be a real far cry. Also, celebrations in the aftermath of a German win in a pool match in FIFA 2014 can hardly ever compare with the Indian
fan passion in Australia.

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While the Brazilian, Dutch, Spanish or German soccer fans travel the world to support club or country, it must be acknowledged that Indian cricket fans have little or no match anywhere else in the world. They have enriched the sport and in the process, given it a lot of financial muscle. To go back to the famous Ashis Nandy line, “Cricket is an Indian game, accidentally discovered by the English”

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