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23 February 201521:11

Indian fans enjoy Melbournian party at the ‘G

They travelled from all around the world in their thousands and the huge Indian contingent at the MCG got exactly the result they wanted

Indian fans enjoy Melbournian party at the ‘G - Cricket News
If the opening match of the ICC Cricket World Cup at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was a giant party for the host nation, it was nothing compared to India’s emphatic win at the same venue last night.

It was a version of the MCG unlike anything seen before: India fans flocked to Melbourne from far or wide, arriving at the Yarra Park precinct hours before the gates opened despite the sweltering heat.

En masse the Swami Army marched from Federation Square in Melbourne’s CBD to the stadium, thousands of people waving flags, playing drums and chanting. It was something to behold.

As the ground filled, it quickly became clear South Africa supporters were a very small minority and by the time India’s batsmen kicked into gear on their way to a big 300-plus score, the ground was a sea of blue.

That the attendance at the ground out-stripped that of the previous MCG match says a lot. The 86,876 crammed into the stadium in the second largest ODI crowd in the ‘G’s history, exceeding the 87,182 who attended the previous Saturday’s clash and second only to the 1992 World Cup final.

For locals, the closest comparison would be a Boxing Day crowd against England. But it was a level above.

The noise was tremendous, as was the raw emotion from the fans.

As Anil Kumble noted on Twitter: “With the Indian fans at the G! Great atmosphere! Feels like India!”

In the early stages of India’s innings, there was a sense the “home side” was in total control of the match. In reality, it was travelling at a run-rate 4.85 an over at the time, but such was the roar for every run, it sounded as though a six was hit with each delivery.

South Africa was playing at a neutral venue, but it would have felt like playing in front of the most passionate crowds in Mumbai or Kolkata.

It is no wonder AB de Villiers commented after the 130-run thrashing: “For now I just want to sort of go feel sad in my room for a while.”

Before Shikhar Dhawan even reached his century, the crowd was on its feet giving a standing ovation, thousands of flags waving. He played three dot balls and the cheers only rose in intensity. When he actually passed the milestone, the noise somehow reached even higher decibels.

One of the biggest crowd reactions of the day was reserved for a man not even playing, when the camera zoomed in and revealed Sachin Tendulkar watching on in the stands.

The fans immediately below his box spent a large portion of the match thereafter watching their hero, rising to their feet and chanting his name whenever he stood and waved. It was the sort of reception that brought to mind royalty standing on a balcony, waving beneficently to their loyal subjects. Which is essentially what it was.

The party atmosphere, which reached fever pitch late in India’s innings as its batsmen slogged their way past 300 runs, quietened early in the second innings while South Africa remained in a stable position.

Even the ground announcer, urging the fans to cheer, failed to emit much of a response.

This rapidly changed after AB de Villiers’ disastrous run-out. The euphoria when the replay revealed the world’s No.1 ODI batsman was short of his crease was incredible to watch.

The joy only increased in direct proportion to the rate at which South African wickets well, culminating in thousands of fans staying after the final wicket had been taken to continuing cheering on MS Dhoni and man of the match Shikhar Dhawan as they gave their post-game interviews.

Two wins from two World Cup matches and it is no surprise India’s fans are elated. Top spot in Pool B and an easier road through the finals is now India’s for the taking.

MS Dhoni summed up the crowd perfectly after the match.

“The attendance was close to 86,000 or 87,000. Let's give the benefit of the doubt, 20,000 to the South African fans, but to get like over 50,000 people in Australia, I think it just adds on to atmosphere that gets created,’’ he said.

“Even when we are playing in India, there are stadiums, some of the stadiums which don't have that kind of capacity, so even when they are full they're close to 40,000, so today we are seeing in Australia close to more than 50,000 to 60,000 people supporting us.

“All of it feels good to play in front of big crowds”