Singing, dancing and waving massive flags, India‘s cricket fans were in party mode as their team achieved a milestone – their first-ever Test series win in Australia.
The two nations are fierce cricketing rivals and India, the number one Test side, came to Australia looking to create history after seven decades of trying.
The self-described 12th man of the team, the vocal Indian fans were a constant presence at the four Tests, eager to witness what seemed like an impossible task in the past become a reality.
“I am very happy now that the time has come that after 71 years ‘Team India’ is going to win this Test trophy,” renowned India fan Sudhir Chaudhary told AFP in Hindi via a translator outside the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Chaudhary – whose upper body and face is painted with the Indian tricolours of saffron, white and green and the name of his patron and favourite player, cricket legend Sachin Tendulkar – embodies the passion of the supporters.
Cricket is hugely popular in India and getting on top of Australia on home soil has been a key goal after 11 previous attempts.
Chaudhary, 37, has followed the Indian cricket team for almost two decades, and made sure he was a visible presence at the SCG as he waved a national flag and blew a conch.
Other faithful fans also travelled from far and wide to Australia to cheer on their star cricketers.
Long periods of rain at the Tests in Sydney and Melbourne did not deter them, with their singing and drumming bringing energy to the dismal sessions.
“It’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster,” British-based Rakesh Patel, the founder of the supporters group Bharat Army, told AFP.
“After two very tough series (against South Africa and England), we’re finally going to win a series away from home.
“Some of these guys here have travelled from all over the world to be here, to see India beat Australia for the first time.”
With India sewing up the series 2-1 after drawing the rain-sodden final Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground and securing victories in Adelaide and Melbourne, the fans were planning a big bash.
“Our plan is to celebrate with the team. We are the 12th man of ‘Team India’, so we’ll be celebrating with them, and then the party will go on,” Rajul Sharma, who heads up the Australian branch of Bharat Army, told AFP.
“It’s hard to say when it’s going to stop… So yeah Sydney, watch out for Indian fans!”
India are in the driver’s seat in the fourth and final Test against Australia in Sydney, having reduced the hosts to 236/6 on Saturday.
India posted 622-7 and saw their bowlers turn up the heat on Australia’s batsmen who were staring down the barrel before rain brought an early close to play on Day Three.
Wrist spinner Kuldeep Yadav was the most successful Indian bowler, picking up three wickets while Ravindra Jadeja and Mohammed Shami also chipped in.
India’s discipline in the bowling department was exemplary while captain Virat Kohli kept the pressure up with innovative field placings. However, it was India’s fielding that stood out with Ajinkya Rahane pulling off two sensational catches – at short mid wicket off Marnus Labuschagne and at first slip off Shaun Marsh – while Kuldeep himself took a fine return catch off Travis Head.
The No1 Test team’s ground fielding was impressive as well and Kuldeep believes India are the best fielding side in the world.
“We have got best fielding coach in Sridhar sir and we are really working on catching in slips, silly point and outfield as well,” Kuldeep said. “I feel we are the best team in the world when it comes to fielding. It’s really important for every player to give 15-20 minutes in fielding and hopefully we will improve day by day.”
On the bowling front, Kuldeep has had to wait for his opportunities behind leading slow bowlers Ravi Ashwin and Jadeja. However, the wrist spinner says waiting in the wings and bowling alongside the best spinners in the world is part of a good learning curve.
Kuldeep said: “When you know you have Ashwin and Jadeja in the squad and you are the third [spinner], there is a lot to get motivated. They are the ones who keep pushing me in the nets — ‘you have to bowl this way and in certain areas’. It is important to learn from them. They have played enough cricket and I am still learning.”
India wicket-keeper Rishabh Pant has become a cult figure in a short span of time with his attacking batting and exuberance winning over experts and fans alike.
Pant smashed an unbeaten 159 to help India post a mammoth 622/7 in the fourth Test against Australia in Sydney. It capped a fine tour Down Under for Pant, who has scored 350 runs and already taken a record 20 catches.
His exploits saw Bharat Army – the travelling group of Indian fans named after England’s famous Barmy Army – created a new chant for Pant, celebrating his success on the field while also taking a dig at Australian skipper Tim Paine whose asked Pant to babysit his kids as part of a light-hearted banter.
The chant goes: “We’ve got Pant. Rishab Pant. I just don’t think you’ll understand. He’ll hit you for a six. He’ll babysit your kids. We’ve got Rishab Pant.”
Watch the video of the chant below.
#AUSvIND— The Bharat Army (@thebharatarmy) January 4, 2019
We’ve got Pant
I just don’t think you’ll understand
He’ll hit you for a six
He’ll babysit your kids
We’ve got Rishab Pant
.#BharatArmySongBook @RishabPant777 #BharatArmy #TeamIndia #12thMan #WeveGotPant #COTI 🇮🇳👶🍼 pic.twitter.com/ZiXaPWqi6M