The boisterous Swami Army is gathering in Sydney for the second cricket test to support India in their clash with Australia.
The supporters’ group was founded by Australian-born Indians, who have mixed their enthusiasm for sport with an appreciation of music from Bollywood, the Indian movie industry that is based in Mumbai.
India’s Swami Army has commandeered part of the Sydney Cricket Ground, festooning its section with flags and banners. The noise of hundreds of Indian fans reverberates around this famous old stadium, which is celebrating its 100th Test match.
Although they may lack the numbers of England's Barmy Army, the Indian contingent is no less passionate.
"The Swami Army was set up about eight years ago by a group of friends in Melbourne and Sydney," Sumit Grover, one of the group’s founding members, said. "We used to travel around to watch the games and from there we formalized the Swami Army this year to make it a big Indian cricket supporter group."
Indian supporters have worked with Australian cricket authorities to allow members of the Swami Army to sit together at matches. Their aim is to follow their team through the good times and bad.
Amit Grover, another of the group’s founders, says it has members in several countries. "The Swami Army has gone global. We have regiments set up in the U.K., U.S., Singapore, UAE, so this isn’t just an Australian phenomena," he stated. "It is going to be worldwide and global."
Indian batting legend Sachin Tendulkar is chasing a milestone on this tour of Australia; the 100th time he has scored 100 runs in an international match, a feat never achieved before. So far his team has struggled, losing the First Test in Melbourne and was skittled out for just 191 in its first innings here in Sydney.
Still the fans are keeping the faith. “Cricket is a religion in India, you know," one fan said. "Like, you don’t stop supporting your religion when things get tough. You know, things get tough on the field and we just get louder and prouder. So we absolutely love our cricket and we’ll never stop loving it."
Swami is a Sanskrit word that means teacher or guru. Members of the Swami Army say they are committed to bringing a bit of Bollywood glamour to the world of international cricket.
Cricket is popular in both India and Australia, which are former colonies of Britain, where the game developed. Test matches are played over five days. Each side has eleven players and bats twice, although shorter forms of the sport are well-liked by supporters.