Sydney: India fans are likely to outnumber their Australian counterparts when the two teams clash in the World Cup semi-final in Sydney on Thursday -- much to the annoyance of the home captain.
Australia skipper Michael Clarke and team-mate David Warner sent out identical tweets, saying: "I call on all Australian cricket lovers to paint the SCG gold on Thursday. We need your support.#goldout" The hashtag, referring to the Australian team colours, has ironically caught the fancy of more Indian Twitter users than Australian.
Michael Clarke (r)and Glenn Maxwell. Pic/ AFP
Organisers believe that 70 percent of tickets at the sold-out 42,000-capacity Sydney Cricket Ground have been bought by by India fans, threatening to create an environment reminiscent of the frenzied atmosphere of Eden Gardens in Kolkata.
If the pitch suits spinners, as has been the case at the SCG in the past, co-hosts Australia may well feel as though they have been kicked out of their own party. Kartik Ayyalasomayajula, one of the founders of the Swami Army -- India's version of England's Barmy Army supporters group -- forecast the Australian team would be in for a hard time from fans on Thursday.
"It will be very loud, very intimidating," Kartik told the Sydney-based Daily Telegraph newspaper. "It will feel like an away game for them. "The drummers will be going around the ground and people will be dancing, singing and cheering every run India score, every wicket they take. People will be going nuts."
Kartik, a Melbourne-based IT professional, said the tweets by Clarke and Warner pleading for Australian support at the match indicated how much the home team were worried. "I think those tweets definitely say they're going to be outnumbered," he said. "I would have thought that would be a standard expectation for the Aussie fans without their heroes going on Twitter to plead with them. "They're really scraping the barrel there. I think it's a message in itself. "India versus Australia in a World Cup semi-final, it doesn't get much bigger than that." Australian all-rounder James Faulkner said the team was prepared for a hostile response from Indian fans.
Asked if the match will feel like an away fixture, Faulkner said: "We were talking about it last night at dinner, the last game we played here it definitely felt like that. "The passion the Indian fans show towards their cricket team is sensational, so we're definitely expecting that. "The last game we played against India here (a tri-series match) was a washout and the fans were unbelievable in the way they supported."
Swami Army's Kartik said those Australians who turned up at the SCG on Thursday would get another taste of what cricket means in South Asia. "This country won't have seen this level of support or atmosphere for cricket games," he said. "You have to go to the sub-continent to get that kind of feel, so we are effectively bringing that atmosphere to Sydney. It's going to be a spectacle."
Kartik said fans were still looking for tickets as they looked to cheer on the defending champions. "It's pretty much name your price kind of thing," he said. "It's the hottest ticket in town at the moment." India, who won the 2011 World Cup in South Asia, defeated Ricky Ponting's Australia in the quarter-finals in Ahmedabad.