HOURS BEFORE the fourth cricket Test match between India and Australia for the Border–Gavaskar Trophy, on 9 March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived at the Narendra Modi Stadium, in Ahmedabad, alongside his Australian counterpart, Anthony Albanese. Chants of “Modi, Modi” resounded through the stadium. The two took a lap around the ground in a golf cart fashioned into a golden chariot, waving to the half-full stands. They sat on a dais and watched a dance performance. They presented caps to their respective captains and shook hands with the players, but only of their own teams.
To many, the event resembled a political rally rather than the typical cricket match. “As the copious banners around the stadium make clear, the political leaders are a much bigger deal this day than the tiny cricketers assembled for their entertainment and positioning,” a commentator noted in the Sydney Morning Herald. “For the first time in living memory, the teams have been shunted to the nets for their warm-ups, in order to clear the stage for Modi and Albanese.” The Gujarati newspaper Divya Bhaskar reported that about eighty thousand tickets had been bought by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.