India Cricket Fans
Cricket is the de facto national sport of India and has a very wide following among the population of India. As a result, stadiums are generally filled to capacity at matches on home soil. Due to large Indian diaspora in nations like Australia, South Africa, and England, a large Indian fan turnout is expected whenever India plays in each of these nations.
There have been a number of official fan groups that have been formed over the years, including the Swami Army or Bharat Army, the Indian equivalent of the Barmy Army, that were very active in their support when India toured Australia in 2003/2004. They are known to attribute a number of popular Indian songs to the cricket team.
Fan rivalry and cross-border tension has created a strong rivalry between the Indian cricket team and the Pakistani cricket team. This has made matches between these two nations the subcontinental equivalent of the Ashes. In tours between these two nations, cricket visas are often employed to accommodate for the tens of thousands of fans wishing to cross the border to watch cricket. This intense fan dedication is one of the major causes of the Indian Cricket Board's (BCCI) financial success.
However, there are downsides to having such a cricket-loving population. Many Indians hold cricket very close to their hearts and losses are not received well by the Indian population. In some cases, particularly after losses to Pakistan or after a long string of weak performances, there have been reports of player effigies being burnt in the streets and vandalism of player homes. In many cases, players have come under intense attention from the media for negative reasons, this has been considered as one of the reasons for Sourav Ganguly being left out of the Indian team. At times, when a match is surrounded by controversy, it has resulted in a debacle. For example, when India slid to defeat against Australia at Brabourne Stadium in 1969, fans began throwing stones and bottles onto the field as well as setting fire to the stands. A similar event occurred during the Cricket World Cup in 1996, where India were losing the semi-final to Sri Lanka at Eden Gardens. In this case, the fan behaviour was directed at the Indian team in disappointment at their lacklustre performance. An armed guard had to be placed at the home of captain Mohammad Azharuddin to ensure his safety. Indian fans have also been passionate in their following of Sachin Tendulkar, who has been commonly thought of as one of the best batsmen in the world. Glorified for the bulk of his career, a riot occurred in early 1999 in a Test against Pakistan at Eden Gardens after a collision with Pakistani paceman Shoaib Akhtar saw him run out, forcing police to eject spectators and the game to be played in an empty stadium. In more recent times, a string of low scores has resulted in continued impatience amongst fans. In front of his home crowd, against South Africa, Tendulkar was booed by the crowd when he got out.
Often, fans quickly come to the defense of players who have been accused of wrongdoings or dropped from the team. In 2005, when Sourav Ganguly was dropped due to lack of form, Ganguly's home state of West Bengal erupted in protests. India later played a match against South Africa in Kolkata, West Bengal. The Indian team was booed by the crowd who supported South Africa instead of India in response to Ganguly's dropping. Similar regional divisions in India regarding selection have also caused protests against the team, with political activists from the regional Kalinga Kamgar Sena party in Orissa disrupting the arrival of the team in Cuttack for an ODI over the lack of an Orissan player in the team, with one player manhandling coach Greg Chappell. Similar treatment was handed to India's Marathi captain Sunil Gavaskar in the 1980s by Bengali crowds, with consecutive Tests in Calcutta requiring police intervention due to crowd rioting.
However, it should be noted that a successful string of results, victories against arch-rivals Pakistan or victory in major tournaments such as the World Cup are greeted with particular ecstasy from the Indian fans.