On 27 November 2020, a one-day international cricket match between India and Australia, at the Sydney Cricket Ground, was briefly halted by two protestors who invaded the pitch. Soon identified as Ben Burdett and Joshua Winestock, the two men were dressed in T-shirts, which read “Stop Adani,” and “Stop Coal #StopAdani Take Action” on the back. Each of them carried a placard with the State Bank of India’s logo over the words, “No $1BN ADANI LOAN.” The incident seemed to have caught everyone by surprise, including the SCG’s stadium security, and the spectators, commentators and players. Simultaneously, a crowd of about 50 protestors demonstrated outside the stadium and the Indian consulates in Canberra and Melbourne. Both men managed to remain on the ground for several minutes before being escorted off. They now face a possible fine of 5,000 Australian dollars and a ban from the stadium’s grounds.
The protests were the latest face of a nearly ten-year long campaign to stop the India-based Adani group from building a coal-mining project in the ecologically sensitive Galilee Basin in northern Australia. The Adani project would release vast quantities of carbon emissions, endanger the Great Barrier Reef and dispossess multiple indigenous communities from their land. In addition, the mining project has faced financial constraints since inception. The coal mine had been rejected for funding by at least 89 potential financiers, including the top banks of the world, before plans of SBI coming to the rescue surfaced.
The mine’s Australian detractors say that the SBI’s rescue loan makes Adani’s actions in Australia relevant to an Indian audience too. The SBI’s loan has faced controversy over charges of crony capitalism ever since it was granted shortly on the heels of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Gautam Adani’s visit to Australia in 2014, to attend the G20 conference in Brisbane. A media release by the Galilee Blockade—one of several environmental groups opposing the mine—stated, “Millions of Indian taxpayers who are watching the first game of the Indian cricket tour have a right to know that the State Bank of India is considering handing their taxes to a billionaire’s climate wrecking coal mine.”