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Popularity pitch by Albanese, Modi at India Test

Anthony Albanese and Indian PM Narendra Modi were a hit with the crowd at the fourth Test.

Anthony Albanese and Indian PM Narendra Modi were a hit with the crowd at the fourth Test. Photo: AAP

Anthony Albanese’s blockbuster meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has relegated the fourth Border-Gavaskar Test to a sideshow.

The political rally at the Ahmedabad stadium named after Modi hosted a “75 years of friendship through cricket” event before the fourth and final Test of the series began.

Mr Modi is hoping to attract a world record in the 132,000-seat capacity stadium and smash the MCG’s mark for highest attendance at a day of Test cricket set in 2013.

The leaders’ arrival at the stadium was slightly delayed, but once the Indian prime minister stepped foot in his own stadium, chants of “Modi, Modi, Modi” echoed around the ground as they would for cricket icon Virat Kohli.

Australia captain Steve Smith and Indian skipper Rohit Sharma met the leaders on stage, with the four linking arms and raising them in the air.

Mr Albanese then joined Mr Modi to do a lap of honour around the stadium in a hovercraft with giant bats and stumps on the back of it, waving to the delighted fans in the crowd.

“It says how valued the relationship with Australia is that the government of India and Prime Minister Modi have put such a major effort into making us feel so welcome,” Mr Albanese said before the event.

The prime minister sang the national anthem arm-in-arm with captain Smith and the rest of the Australian team, and is expected to watch the first hour of the Test match.

Mr Albanese will later fly to Mumbai, where he will take part in a roundtable with Australian and Indian chief executives and promote Australian products at an expo.

He has made the trip with a major Australian business delegation in order to further boost trade ties.

“These are serious CEOs of major Australian companies, showing how seriously Australia takes the relationship with India going forward,” Mr Albanese said.

“It’s very important that we cement those ties even further. Towards the end of this year, I’m looking forward to an upgrade in the economic relationship between Australia and India.”

The prime minister will later visit the western naval command, which is responsible for Indian forces in the Arabian Sea and meet with defence personnel who have taken part in exercises in Australia.

Opposition foreign affairs spokesman Simon Birmingham on Thursday welcomed Mr Albanese’s comments that the relationship between the nations is at a high point.

He added India hosting the G20 summit this year would also be critical in advocating for the end of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

– AAP

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