Cheers replace taunts for Symonds
Cricket's $1.5 million man Andrew Symonds was cheered as he jogged out to bat in the Eden Gardens cauldron last night, temporarily easing fears of a repeat of racist taunts from Indian crowds.
Symonds' approach to the wicket for his first Indian Premier League game was partly muted by the Bollywood music reverberating around the ground but there was no repeat of the jeers and racist taunts that dogged him on Australia's one-day tour of India last year.
His arrival at the crease was also overshadowed by the crowd's excitement at the big hitting of teammate Adam Gilchrist, who clubbed two sixes and a four in one over.
But Symonds, playing for the Deccan Chargers against the Kolkata Knight Riders, received generous cheers for a star batsman from an opposing side.
IPL players, officials and fans had been nervous about Symonds' reception, fearing a repeat of the monkey chants that erupted in Mumbai in November.
A pre-match announcement at the 90,000 capacity stadium warned fans they would be evicted and face prosecution for racist chanting.
"We remind spectators that any racial abuse comments or behaviour will not be tolerated," the announcer said.
Symonds was cheered as he stepped from the Deccan Chargers team bus before the start of the Twenty20 match.
Kolkata fans said they were interested in supporting their side, which includes Australian captain Ricky Ponting, and hoped to see a big-hitting display from Symonds and Gilchrist.
A Kolkata newspaper yesterday lightheartedly reminded fans the "monkey" word was "a no-no" when "jeering and riling rival team's Aussies".
Neel Raj, 22, said the tension of last summer's India-Australia Test series was "all a part of the game" and was now "in the past".
"Symonds is an explosive player. He's a good player, aggressive and he hits hard," he said.
Symonds has been tight-lipped in India, generally striding past the fans and media. The team's security guard, a burly South African, has been paying him special attention, as befits a player who attracted almost $1.5 million in the IPL player auction.
On the day before the match, his only comment to the Hyderabad newspaper after which his team is named was: "My ambition is to win the tournament."
Speaking before the game, Gilchrist said the pair had been "extremely well received" in their franchise's home town.
"But it's home and away, so who knows?" he said of Symonds' reception.
"The local crowd here might not like us - we'll just have to wait and see.
"But in Hyderabad, they've been very happy."
Pointing out India was in the grip of IPL and Twenty20 "fever", he said crowds seemed more interested in the hype than international rivalries.