The Garden State is in the Spirit of Christmas. But like some of the locals here cry "Boxing Day is what drives them further into the spirit because the cricket is on."
Michael Clarke (left) signs autographs during the Australian Test team's
fan day at Federation Square in Melbourne yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
That truism was validated when scores of people turned up to watch six Indian and Australian cricketers share the stage here at the Queeensbridge Square in Southbank to officially kick start the Boxing Day Test celebrations yesterday.
While Australia captain Michael Clarke got booed by the strong Indian contingent and even locals, Rahul Dravid, Ricky Ponting and Zaheer Khan got the loudest applause. It was a fun event that allowed young kids to share stage with, and bowl or bat at a player of their choice.
Ponting, under pressure from the local media for persistent batting woes, was glad that fans were still on his side. "It's very nice to hear the cheers.
If a lot of people shore me up in the Boxing Day Test, it should help me get back in the groove. MCG is a happy hunting ground. "Boxing Day is one of the great days of the Australian sporting calendar. It's always a good feeling this time of the year.
"The preparation going into the Test has been good. There are a couple more training sessions to go, the boys are looking forward to it," the batting great said. Peter Siddle, always playing his pranks, was spotted throwing balls at Ponting from behind the stage.
"He's just my former captain, so I can afford to do this now (laughs). My body is coping well after injuries. It's another Boxing Day Test, I can't wait to get out there," said the local lad.
David Warner, hailed by a few writers here as "the saviour of Australian cricket," said he was hoping for the hosts to bat first and post a big total.
"Hopefully, I can continue my good form. I'm a little nervous going into it to be honest. The weather has been fantastic, hopefully we can win the toss and bat all day on Boxing Day," he said.
Skipper Clarke acknowledged that Indians could outnumber the Aussies during the course of the Test. When he came up on stage, the emcee played down the boos by saying "they are mostly cheers". Clarke knew what to expect.
"The Boot Camp has done us a lot of good over the last few days. The boys are ready to go. (Listening to the reactions here) I am pretty sure that there will be plenty of Indians at Boxing Day," he said.