AHMEDABAD: It was difficult to ignore the enthusiasm two days out from the fourth and final Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy. Being inside the Narendra Modi Stadium, one of the biggest sporting venues in the world, allowed one to observe the frenzied activity taking place both inside and outside the perimeter of the complex. The adhesive being used to adhere the posters outside had not yet dried. A stage was being set up within the stadium underneath the south stand, which was situated behind the square. An enormous hoarding of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was displayed on stage. As soon as the hoarding was put up, the crowd of journalists who had come to see the Australian training session quickly gathered on Tuesday morning.
“Would be interesting to watch (Steve) Smith get the umpire to move Albanese a few inches to the right?” was one. “Wonder how Rohit (Sharma) would cope with Modi watching his every move on the field?” another. The hoarding was silently removed a few hours after it was put up. These posters serve as a symbol of the countries’ friendship. — “75 YEARS OF FRIENDSHIP THROUGH CRICKET” — have been plastered all around the stadium.
And on Tuesday, that was actually the main focus. Mumbai may be preparing to host a Test match with a lot on the line, but Albanese, the first Australian Prime Minister to visit India since 2017, is also getting ready to arrive. If Tuesday’s dress rehearsals are any indication, there will also likely be some type of lap of honour. Two guys were being taken around the stadium in a golden chariot-like vehicle, the orange seats gleaming in the early but still sweltering July heat. Both Prime Ministers will take their seats before the national anthem and watch the first hour of the game before departing the stadium, according to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald on Sunday. Albanese will continue on Thursday night to Mumbai.
Of course, hosting political events at the Narendra Modi Stadium is nothing new. The event “Namaste Trump” with US President Donald Trump was held there in 2020. Before a day-night Test against England the following year, it was given the new moniker of the Narendra Modi Stadium.
Do the athletes consider competing in front of Modi and Albanese? Do they consider the noise from outside that will undoubtedly be there on Thursday? Rahul Dravid, the coach, gave a negative response. “I don’t think so,” he said. “Overall, these guys are professionals, they are used to playing in front of big crowds, they are used to a lot of noise that happens in and around these games. For them to just be able to switch on and play the Test, I don’t think it should be particularly difficult. We understand it’s a really exciting opportunity for us this week to play some really good cricket.” At a certain point, the cricket will be played at the stadium, but not before the two Prime Ministers have visited the stage.
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