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India vs Australia: For 21 years, a banker and a businessman have been to every India Test in Australia | Cricket News – Times of India

MELBOURNE: It was summer, 1999. A cricket match in Australia would usually be a sea of yellow. The Indian community in Australia was not large, but a small band of 15 wanted to paint the Adelaide stands blue for the India-Australia Test series. Raghav Bhatia was ‘I’ and Rakesh Jampala ‘D’ in the line of five to spell out ‘INDIA’ that day. India lost.
“But it was extraordinary. We knew we had to do it again,” said Rakesh, now 38.
They did. In the 21 years since, the two have attended every single Test India has played in Australia. And they were at Adelaide again on Thursday — their 24th Test.
“It’s wonderful to be back where it started,” said Raghav from the Adelaide Oval.
Rakesh is an investment banker in Sydney and Raghav, 34, runs his family business in Melbourne.
“Every tour costs us around $15,000 (AUD) now. We spend on the games and then celebrations later.”

It takes months of planning. Adelaide remains their favourite. “It’s also where Dravid hit his double hundred in 2003. History.”
That was the year the motley group caught the attention of an ABC reporter. “We were dubbed the Swami Army. We liked the name and ran with it,” Raghav said.
By now, Swami Army, an Indian cricket fan club, has 10,000 members. Sometimes things got rough. In 2008, both were kicked out of the ground. Rakesh was first: “It was Sydney. India lost after several contentious calls by Steve Buckner. I was getting agitated. Suddenly, security comes and escorts me off.”
In Adelaide, it was Raghav: “Stuart Clark was fielding near the boundary. I had a few things to say. He didn’t like it and got me kicked out.”
But an encounter in Melbourne made up for things.
“I was with a friend who knew (Anil) Kumble, and (MS) Dhoni was there. I asked for a photo. Dhoni said ‘yes’ and swung the camera at me.
“I said, ‘No, with you.’ And, yes, Sachin said he hardly gets to take his Ferrari for a spin, and only after 2 am when Mumbai streets are quieter.”

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