Ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup semi-final match between India and Australia on Thursday, the rivalry could be felt even outside the Sydney stadium as several prominent Australians made subtle racist comments against Indian fans on public platforms, drawing ire on social media.
The TV host of Australia's "Today" show, Karl Stefanovic, thought it fit to ask a group of Indian fans from the famous "Swami Army" live on air, "who's going to be manning 7-Elevens today?"
The comment, though casual, obviously had a racist undertone as it was aimed at stereotyping Indians as workers at departmental stores.
One of the Indian fans, identified as Kartik by BuzzFeed, came up with an equally caustic repartee, telling the TV host, "I'm not sure about who's going to be manning 7-Elevens but you might have to look at Centrelink as well I think Karl."
He was sarcastically suggesting that Stefanovic will have to hunt for a job through the Australian government's Centrelink programme in its Department of Human Services.
But Stefanovic was in no mood to relent, and he came back with yet another gaffe, when he asked the Indian fan, "What are you going to say to Warner?"
The TV host was hinting at cricketer David Warner's recent controversial remark to Indian batsman Rohit Sharma to "speak English".
The fan responded to this with gumption too. He said, "We'll definitely be speaking in English so he understands."
But it was not just Stefanovic who chose to make racist jokes ahead of the match.
Another such stereotype comment came from Australia's rugby union captain Tim Horan, who tweeted: "What are the chances of getting a taxi in Sydney later today?" The post was followed by hashtags #taxidrivers, #india.
He instantly faced a backlash on social media for his tweet, which he soon deleted and wrote: "Hi all earlier tweet today was an innocent error......never meant to offend anyone."
Horan's tweet, however, sparked off a series of similar racist jokes, such as "telemarketing calls will be quiet today."
However, the Indian Australian Association of NSW president Yadu Singh, said the comments were not racist, but had "an inherent and underlying stereotyping."
"It might be a news to him (Stefanovic) that Indian Aussies constitute a sizable proportion of medical profession in Australia," Singh said, according to The Sydney Morning Herald.
"Big numbers are also in accounting, IT profession, finance, banking and small business segment. They are basically in every profession. Nothing wrong if some of them are working in 7-Eleven set-ups," he said.
But many netizens slammed the comments as being plain racist.
Here's how Twitterati, both Indians and Australians, reacted:
— Ashley♡ (@S00TS420) March 26, 2015
— Kamna मुद्दगौनी (@kamnamuddagouni) March 25, 2015
— Greens NSW (@GreensNSW) March 26, 2015
— Shane Bazzi (@shanebazzi) March 26, 2015
Despite a crucial match like this, it was encouraging to see many Australians condemn the racist comments on Twitter.
The rivalry between Indian and Australian fans has always been a heated one, and the fact that almost 70% of the seats at the 42,000-seater stadium is packed by Indians, many of them from the Swami Army, may be another thorn in the side for Australian fans, who have been outnumbered despite captain Michael Clarke's call to #GoldOut the Sydney Cricket Ground.
I call on all Australian cricket lovers to paint the SCG gold on Thursday. We need your support. #goldout
— Michael Clarke (@MClarke23) March 20, 2015