Australia v India, World Cup 2015, 2nd semi-final, Sydney March 26, 2015

Australia arrives at its own party

Australian fans turned up in droves for their team's SCG semi-final, dispelling pre-match fears that they would be drowned in a noisy sea of blue t-shirts and tricolour flags
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Australia's fans matched India's for numbers and noise, even if they lost the battle of the flags © ICC

Looks like Australia's cricket fans paid attention to Michael Clarke.

The fears of a 70-30 split in favour of an Indian audience had led the Australian captain to send out a tweet to the home audience: ""I call on all Australian cricket lovers to paint the SCG gold. We need your support. #goldout." Steven Smith, next in line to be Australia's captain, chipped in, "let's fill the place with gold."

Two hours before the game, the only spectators milling around the ground who could be seen - and of course heard - were Indians in their blue T-shirts. Two Australians dressed in team colours replied to greetings from volunteers with a laugh, "we're the only two going to be in there."

Not really. The crowd split was close to 50-50 between Indian fans and Australian fans. At best it could have been 55-45 India-Australia.

The main point of distinction was the fact that almost every Indian fan was wearing blue and in the battle of the flags, the tricolor was winning. As the match ran its course, though, the sound of fans on both sides began to make itself heard. Matching the Indian fans cheering every fielding stop or well crafted over was the steady drumbeat of applause at every Australian four. India's "jeetega bhai jeetega" (we will win, brother, we will win) was met by "Cmon, Aussie, cmon".

The fears of a mysterious detachment of Australian fans from a World Cup they were themselves hosting arose when the quarter-final between Australia and Pakistan pulled in 35,516 but left many visible empty seats in the 50,000-capacity ground. When a news report two days before the SCG quarter final quoted organisers as saying 70% of the stands would be filled by Indian fans who had snatched up the tickets, the dread would have passed onto Australia's cricket establishment.

This sudden, ominous lack of Australian interest could have arisen from two quarters: the advent of the footy/rugby season was well under way, the summertime for paying attention to cricket had passed. Then there was the matter of an Australian trait - of paying attention to any major sporting events only a week or so before the main event. Several Indian generations brought up on the dreaded fear of 'waiting lists' - whether for telephone connections and flights in the past or train journeys and new models of cars even today - make a beeline for tickets they care about the instant they are available. In this case, the moment the quarter-final line-up became known, those Indians who wanted to turn up made all their bookings.

The Australian team need not have feared, their fans came. In healthy, raucous and supportive numbers. Without as many flags or team jerseys as the Indian fans, but they were there. As Mitchell Johnson cleaned out 49 off the last four overs, the Australian cheering grew louder, and the Indians spent the evening listening to music and dancing instead.

MS Dhoni raised the pulse of the Indian fans briefly, hitting two consecutive sixes off Watson, but once he was run out by one of two dead-eye direct hits, their energy leached out. In the blink of an eye, they began leaving the ground, and by time the Australians cleaned up the last three wickets, all that was left to be seen were healthy clusters of yellow shirts and green chairs.

Sharda Ugra is senior editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • sam on March 27, 2015, 18:13 GMT

    @Michael Baker That is really sad. World Championships (ODIs and T20s; at least all Australia matches, SFs and Finals) and the marquee test series (Ashes ) should be on free-to-air tv in Australia. Even the marquee test series (Aus vs SA) should have a 2 hrs highlights package. Otherwise how will the kids be interested to play for Australia. In India the National Broadcasters (free to air) show all almost all (>70%) limited overs matches featuring India. Sometimes hope they also get the right to show two hour highlights package of test matches featuring India as well. Best way to promote sport.

  • Rama on March 27, 2015, 11:49 GMT

    I have been hearing Australians whine about the pay TV issue for weeks on such message boards. I guess it's because we in India fought this battle (and lost) back in the early 90s, but I don't understand why this is such a big deal in Australia. The coverage on free-to-air TV in India was identical to that in Australia (only India's games were broadcast), and India is a MUCH poorer country than Australia, but that didn't prevent folks here from knowing about and closely following the World Cup. Also, there's a little thing called the Internet that lets fans follow what's going on. So Aussie fans can easily follow what's going on (unless you live under a rock) or pay for a month or two of pay TV to catch the World Cup coverage. If they can't or won't do those things, it means they don't care. Well, I am perfectly fine with that. It'll only mean that the Indian team will get more and more dominant, and one day thrash Aussies with regularity.

  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2015, 4:36 GMT

    I think there is another reason the writer missed for the poor turnout by Australian fans. Most of the WC has not been on free-to-air tv in Australia and a lot of people just forgot it was going on. I've been a cricket fan for years but I'm losing interest. Not having the WC on tv during the earlier phases was just another nail in the coffin.

  • Jake on March 27, 2015, 4:15 GMT

    the India team is no better in terms of sportsmanship. They have showed some disgusting behavior over the summer. Dhoni is a gentleman, but once he retires India is left with a spoilt brat in Virat Kohli leading a young team. Raina couldnt get ball on ball and started yelling at Starc. Starc replied "im not saying anything". Raina was clearly trying to bait him. Australia are annoying to India because India keep losing to them. Now that India have lost again they are still trying to find something to complain about. The pitch suited India, the crowd supported India. The Australian's played the game in the right spirit. When they lose, like normal they always say "the ICC should do something here". A lot of Indian supports are very bad losers.

  • Dummy4 on March 27, 2015, 3:38 GMT

    @Cpt.Meanster mate your delusional, amazing that you Indian supporters only see what you want to see, you guys always turn a blind eye when your players start anything, while the Aussie boys do take it too far at times, your guys are not afraid to start the trouble either, Rohit Sharma got the ball rolling yesterday in the field so much so the umpire had to step in and tell him to settle it down and that was after about 5 or 6 overs so don't sit there and crap on that Australia are the only ones at fault, as Billy Bowden said before the world cup started every team does it, some are just better at it

  • Jay on March 27, 2015, 2:08 GMT

    Some poor behavior by the Aussie players throughout the game. Especially Johnson and Starc. Two ordinary bowlers outside their home conditions, who will be spanked to all parts of Indian grounds come the IPL next month. These guys need some mental conditioning big time. Sure, they won the game but they have gone down in everyone's hearts. On the other hand, teams like India and SA have won everyone over even if they are not playing in the finals. Even the Kiwis have won a huge fan following thanks to their players' humility and gentleman-ship. This kind of annoying behavior by Aussies should not be tolerated by the ICC match referee during the finals. Appalling !

  • Damian on March 26, 2015, 23:45 GMT

    Disappointing behaviour from the Indian fans to leave so early. Sure most left when Dhoni was dismissed but a significant number also left when Virat was dismissed. The Indian team performed admirably in this world cup, with great spirit and nobility. They deserved to be cheered at the end of the match by their supporters. They did not deserve to be abandoned like they were.

  • Basil on March 26, 2015, 21:15 GMT

    @Navaneetha ........... , you'll find 1987, 1999, 2003, and 2007 were all played away from home crowds.

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2015, 21:13 GMT

    the crowd for the semi against pakistan was a reflection of the dismal televising of this world cup. Too many games only on pay tv. World cup?...what world cup? for most of it the average aussie did not know it was on, unless you had pay tv. The experience of the Big Bash where the last 2 seasons have been on free to air tv is a classic example. Tv ratings and crowds at the games have soared since it moved from pay tv to channel 10. Big bash games in adelaide had 50,000 to several games, not the 35000 who went to the quarter final. ICC have had another failure, but who is surprised by that!

  • Dummy4 on March 26, 2015, 14:43 GMT

    True today. But in last world cup, they could not win when world was against them. Jokes apart, well played aussies. You remain the team to beat. Looking forward to good summit clash.

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