By Rishi Iyengar
March 25, 2015

Every sports team loves the slight advantage that playing at home provides. While it all comes down to the players’ performance on the day, thousands of fans screaming their lungs out for you definitely gives a psychological edge.

But the home ground advantage will very likely be rendered irrelevant when Australia take on India in the second semifinal of the 2015 Cricket World Cup on Thursday, even though they are playing at the Sydney Cricket Ground — one of their favorite and most iconic venues.

That’s because, according to organizers, Indian fans have bought about 70% of the 42,000 seats in the stadium, Agence France-Presse reports. Cricket is akin to a religion across South Asia and Indian cricket fans are among the most boisterous and dedicated, so it’s not surprising that Australian captain Michael Clarke is worried.

Clarke and batsman David Warner sent out identical tweets over the weekend, calling for a “gold-out” (the team’s colors are primarily yellow).

“It will be very loud, very intimidating” said Kartik Ayyalasomayajula, one of the founders of an Indian fan collective called the Swami Army. “It will feel like an away game for them.”

Australia have their work cut out against India, who are the defending champions after winning the 2011 World Cup on their home turf in Mumbai. Both teams have been in fine form thus far in the tournament, and Thursday’s encounter promises to be a tense and closely fought one. “People will be going nuts,” Kartik said.

Should Australia win, though, they will definitely have the home advantage at next week’s final in Melbourne against World Cup co-hosts New Zealand, who edged out South Africa Tuesday in the other nail-biting semifinal.

But Kiwis, as New Zealanders are colloquially known, are scrambling to fill those stands as well, with the New Zealand Herald reporting that a fresh round of tickets for the final released by the International Cricket Council sold out almost immediately on Wednesday.

Write to Rishi Iyengar at rishi.iyengar@timeasia.com.

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