SYDNEY: More than three hours before the start of the World Cup semi-final between Australia and India on Thursday and already there were India flags being flown outside the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Ajit Burli, 31, a chartered accountant from Mumbai and his friend Murali Mamana, 39, a business development manager from Pune, were determined to make it a day out to remember.
“It’s cost us one-and-a-half lakhs 150,000 rupees ($2,398, AUS $3,067) to be here. That’s quite expensive but we are die-hard India fans,” Ajit said.
“We are for cricket and we are sure India will win the World Cup so we are here to cheer our team and our country.”
Asked why they had arrived so early, Ajit said: “We just want to get a glimpse of the players (before the match starts). This is a World Cup, this is a special event.”
Murali added: “At the last World Cup we were in Ahmedabad for the quarter-final (where India beat Australia).”
Asked about his forecast for the match, Ajit said: “All the way India! But both the teams are very competitive.
“It’s going to be a tough match. I think the toss will play a big factor. I feel whichever team wins the toss and bats first should win the match.”
“And also the World Cup!,” added Murali, ahead of the game set to be watched by 42,000 people inside the famous arena.
“This is the ‘decider'”, agreed Ajit. “Whichever team wins this match will win the final.”
Pre-match estimates were that some 70 percent of tickets at a sold-out SCG had been taken up by India fans.
“Sydney will be a home ground for India,” said Murali. “The pitch (which is expected to be spin-friendly) and crowd support makes it home conditions for India.”
However, Matthew Collins, a 26-year-old paramedic working in Melbourne was among a group of proud Australia supporters at the match.
Asked about his interest in cricket, Matthew said: “I’m a first-grade all-rounder with the Blue Mountains Cricket Association (100km, 60 miles from Sydney). I love it.”
He added he was relishing the prospect of witnessing such a high-stakes match.
“It will be a good atmosphere that’s the main thing. More Australians would be nice, but it’s all right, we’ll do what we can do. The whole family are here — my mum and dad live in Sydney.
“Australia will win for sure, of course they will.
“We went to the (Australia-India) Test series, we know what to expect. It’s very special and it will be fiery.”
Australian breakfast television presenter Karl Stefanovic added to that fire when, interviewing Indian cricket fans ahead of the match, he asked: “I was just going to ask…who’s going to be manning 7-Elevens today?”
But a member of the Swami Army, the India supporters group, laughed off the stereotype that convenience stores in Australia are mostly run by Indians, saying: “I’m not sure about who’s going to be manning 7-Elevens but you might have to look at Centrelink (welfare agency) as well I think Karl.”
Meanwhile former Australia rugby union international Tim Horan followed in Stefanovic’s footsteps by posting on Twitter: “What are the chances of getting a taxi in Sydney later today?”
Indian Australian Association of NSW president Yadu Singh told the Sydney Morning Herald there was an “inherent and underlying stereotyping” in Stefanovic’s question but he did not think it racist.
“It might be a news to him that Indian Aussies constitute a sizable proportion of the medical profession in Australia,” Singh said.
“Big numbers are also in accounting, IT profession, finance, banking and small businesses. They are basically in every profession. Nothing wrong if some of them are working in 7-Eleven set-ups.” (AFP)