At every given opportunity, Indian cricketers have acknowledged the overpowering support of their fans for their overwhelming show here. It wouldn’t be out of place if they also sent a thank-you note to the Australian government for tweaking visa and immigration rules for Indian students. After all, it’s the army of college-bunkers in their 20s — the most audible section on the terraces — that has played a big role in Indian fans breaking crowd attendance records at venues hosting India’s games. (Full Coverage| Points table| Fixtures)
At MCG, when India played South Africa, 86,876 entered the turnstiles. Indian college students came in droves to Melbourne, an education hub. The count was more than the one recorded at the World Cup opener between hosts Australia and old rivals England, and just 1,000 short of the ODI world record set at the 1992 World Cup final at the same venue.
While a few islands of Pakistani and South African fans were spotted in the sea of blue at Adelaide and Melbourne, at Perth on Saturday, those supporting UAE were in mere double digits inside a 25,000 capacity stadium. India’s next game against West Indies at the same venue on Friday is sold out and so are the last two league games in New Zealand.
Associate professor Anna Parkin from Curtin University in Perth says she has seen a large growth in Indian student commencements, and feels that this trend will continue as the new enrollments in 2015 have gone up by 50 per cent.
“Many international students want the opportunity to gain some work experience in their host country before they go back home and Australia’s post-study work visa makes this possible. International study is a major investment that often includes significant family sacrifice… There is an expectation that this sacrifice will have strong positive outcomes — and these are undoubtedly about employment and career,” she says.
Data shows that the number of people pursuing English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (ELICOS) has doubled in Australia. At the same time, the UK saw a decline of 8 per cent in 2013-14 after a 26 per cent decline in 2012-13.
Meanwhile, administrators at venues hosting India’s games aren’t complaining. If anything, they are indulging the blue army by playing Yo Yo Honey Singh on the public announcement system, arranging curry kiosks and distributing tri-colours.
WACA CEO Christina Matthews says, “We’ve always found Indian supporters to be a very happy and enthusiastic crowd and that helps them really get into the atmosphere of the game. We’ve been preparing for this World Cup for a long time and have had a great experience with the Indian team and spectators in the past.”
The local economies, too, are showing encouraging spikes because of India’s games. The India-Pakistan game saw 60,000 visitors flock to Adelaide — the ground attendance was more than the Rolling Stones concert last year. For south Australia, securing the most-anticipated game of the World Cup was a coup of sorts. While other Aussie cities tried getting games featuring the host team, Adelaide wanted India-Pakistan. The calculated gamble paid off, with reports saying that the 60,000 brought in an estimated 31 million Australian dollars in tourism revenues.
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