Swami Army enjoys the Tendulkar show

India's Swami Army supporters Vasudha Jampala and her husband Rakesh join a large contingent cheering India yesterday at the MCG.
India's Swami Army supporters Vasudha Jampala and her husband Rakesh join a large contingent cheering India yesterday at the MCG.

THEY don't have the irreverent chants or rollicking songs of their English counterparts, they aren't as well-generalled and they are far more polite.

The ``Swami Army'' doesn't sledge, doesn't get drunk and has, as the object of its worship, the game's greatest hero.

And at the MCG yesterday they paid him full tribute.

In return, Sachin Tendulkar played cricket almost as gloriously as it can be played.

He was audacious, inventive, majestic and in total control as he set off in pursuit of his 100th international century.

And when he fell 27 runs short in the last over of the day, they applauded Peter Siddle, the bowler who spoiled their day, and along with the Australian fans, they gave their idol a standing ovation.

Melbourne has an Indian population of around 50,000, the largest of any Australian city, and they turned the MCG into a home ground for their team on the second day of the first Test against Australia yesterday.

Of the 52,858 at the ground, at least half rejoiced at the fall of every Australian wicket, wildly waving their green, orange and white Indian flags, and when Tendulkar came out to bat they leapt about screaming.

The ``Little Master'' rewarded them first by flicking a rising ball from Siddle over second slip for six before settling into some more orthodox work.

Ben Hilfenhaus had him watchful and cautious for an over or so, until the third ball of his 12th over.

Without seeming to move he was at the pitch of it and without the slightest effort he had hit it to the mid-off boundary.

Two balls later he did the same again, this time straight past the bowler.

A couple more ``uppercuts'' over the slips, a dozen-or-so dancing glances off his legs and a bemused and polite tap back to the bowler of a full toss from Dave Warner.

The afternoon went on to became a contest between those in the stands yesterday and those with tickets for today.

One group seemed certain to see the elusive 100th-hundred and the other would miss out.

In the end they both did thanks to the persistence of Siddle who bowled Tendulkar for 73 in the day's last over.