An Asian party set to unfold Down Under

World Cup 2015: Teams from the sub-continent will have plenty of support in the stands

The 1992 World Cup, in more than one way, was a watershed moment in the history of Australia.

For the first time players wore coloured clothing, white balls and black sightscreens were introduced, the two-ball rule per innings, which was to be scrapped only to be brought back now, came into effect during this event while it also welcomed South Africa for the first time in the quadrennial event post the apartheid era.

We also saw some innovative tactics by captains, notably by New Zealand’s Martin Crowe who perhaps changed the way one-day cricket was played then. As much as he immortalised off-spinner of Indian origin Deepak Patel by introducing him in the first over, he unsettled and unnerved rival teams with this strategy. He also let Mark Greatbatch go on the rampage during the field restrictions, a method Sri Lanka perfected to win the next World Cup when it was held in the sub-continent.

That Pakistan won the tournament by beating England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was more than symbolic of the Asian surge in the Australian landscape and psyche. Today, as the World Cup returns to Australia, the country is much browner than it was in 1992 and its dependence on Asia for its economic prosperity, cricket included, is more evident than before.

Though Lisa Sthalekar, who traces her origins to Pune, was the first male or female cricketer from the sub-continent to play at the highest level, Usman Khawaja, Fawad Ahmed (both of Pakistani origin) and more recently Gurinder Sandhu (of Indian origin) have broken into the Australia’s senior team in the last five years, reflecting the growing presence and influence of people of Asian origin in the Australian cricket set up.

The 2011 World Cup, held in the sub-continent and won by India, was an unqualified success and that the Asian teams are going to be crucial in the success of this World Cup was unmistakable when Indian fans easily outnumbered the Australian fans during their tri-series match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Nearly 38,000 turned up on Sunday and more than 30,000 were rooting for India! While the Australia-England match at the MCG on February 14, the opening day of the World Cup, will attract huge crowds, the biggest block-buster of the tournament is going to be the next day in Adelaide when India clash with arch-rivals Pakistan.

The last time the two met each other at the Sydney Cricket Ground, a match won by India with Sachin Tendulkar being declared the man of the match, the venue wasn’t even half full but come February 15, the Adelaide Oval will be packed to the brim. The level of interest could be judged from the fact that the tickets for the match were sold out within 20 minutes after they went online.

“I am going to be there in Adelaide on Feb 15,” said Melbourne-based taxi driver Tony Wade, who managed to procure a ticket from one his Indian friends. “I have friends from both India and Pakistan and I just love their passion for the game. Even when they watch an India-Pakistan match on TV, the tension they go through is just fascinating. They will be dancing, shouting and abusing each other but all in good fun… I just love the colour and drama they bring to the game.”

World Cup 2015 may just turn out to be an Asian event being held in Australia and New Zealand!


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