'Swami Army' flock to Aussie grounds

'Swami Army' flock to Aussie grounds

Indian supporters turned out in large numbers during the recent T20I against Australia in Sydney. AFP File Photo

It's a summer's day and the historic Sydney Cricket Ground is buzzing with chatter and excitement.

But instead of the green and gold of Australia, the huge and euphoric crowd filling the stadium is a sea of blue -- the colour of India, prompting one TV pundit to ask: "Are we in Mumbai?"

They were in town for a recent Twenty20 international ahead of an anticipated four-Test series starting in Adelaide from Thursday, where thousands of passionate fans, young and old, will turn up to catch a glimpse of their cricketing heroes.

"There's probably more Indian supporters than Australian supporters here at the grounds so yeah, it does feel like a home game wherever we go now," fan Kartik Ayyalasomayajula told AFP.

"And I'm sure the players feel the same way, so it's really exciting."

The Sydney-based 30-year-old and his friends created the "Swami Army" supporter group in 2003 when he was just a teenager, and he has watched it grow to a global fan club with 60,000 members.

"We love to travel around the country, the world to follow the team," he said.

The carnival atmosphere inside and outside the grounds is infectious. Once a drum starts up or someone yells a chant, everyone joins in, singing and dancing on cue.

The love they have for their superstar players is palpable. When captain Virat Kohli emerges or responds to supporters, they go into meltdown, and some passionate fans even burst into tears.

It is appreciated by the team, with opener Shikhar Dhawan calling the support "tremendous" and team-mate Krunal Pandya saying it "definitely" feels like playing in India.

"When you have home support, the way they were cheering, it is an added advantage," he said.



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