Returning World Cup cricket champion India is making its presence known on the field, but it’s the noise coming from the stands that is really attracting attention.
The Swami Army, the Indian cricket team’s largest group of supporters, has invaded Australia’s major town centres, following the side around the country.
Almost 10 years ago, the Swarmi Army formed in Melbourne, with a group of eight diehard cricket fans taking the initiative to establish an organised group.
Today, says co-founder Kartik Ayyalasomayajula, the group has nearly five thousand members across the globe.
“We started off just sitting together, a group of eight, a bunch of guys from Melbourne and Sydney, and then we thought, ‘Why don’t we make this something big? There’s so many Indian cricket fans who are out there, let’s make it a formalised group, let’s make it a formalised base.’ And so we’re just growing by the day, growing by the minute.”
Devotion to the game outweighs devotion to their spouses for some fans.
Mohammad Bashir travelled from Chicago for the Cricket World Cup, leaving behind his wife and family.
He says, once the coin is tossed, his phone goes off.
“Ah, now, I’m kicking! I don’t pick up phone. If she calls, I don’t pick up call. (laughter …) Yeah.”
But it is more than just a love of the game that brings them together.
Kartik Ayyalasomayajula says the Swami Army is a family organisation.
He says it gives Indian expats a chance to come together to appreciate each other, as well as cricket.
“Just following Team India wherever they play around Australia, around the world. Just basically trying to create the big carnival atmosphere and get the families and kids involved in it. Really have a Bollywood … a mix between Bollywood and cricket, I guess.”