Bharat Army to celebrate 20 years with 11,000 fans

Team India’s global support group, based in London, will also provide coaches for transport across cities for matches.

A few members of the Bharat Army after their arrival in London for the ICC World Cup 2019.   -  The Bharat Army / Twitter

The ICC Cricket World Cup is not limited to the thrill on the pitch. It is a grand affair for fans and supporters; a carnival of sorts that involves travel, food, banter, entertainment and social gatherings. 

Bharat Army — Team India’s top global support group in London — will move around the United Kingdom with close to 11,000 fans from 23 countries for the next seven weeks to mark its 20th anniversary. 

The group came into existence before the India-Pakistan match in World Cup ‘99 in Manchester. Even this time, the two nations will meet at the same venue on June 16. “As a result, we have organised a huge event on the eve of the match. We are expecting the fans to come together.”

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“There will be a music concert with Punjabi singer Guru Randhawa at the Victoria Warehouse. Some ex-players will also be joining us on stage,” BA founder Rakesh Patel told Sportstar over the telephone from London. 

Among the travellers, most are from India and the US. But there are a few surprises as well. “There are fans coming from Mexico and Cambodia. I didn’t even know cricket existed there,” said Patel.

BA has its own travel company which has a tie-up with the ICC. “If you are a BA member, it increases your ticket chances in the ballot. That’s one way of doing it. There are others who prefer a package,” he added. 

The Future Tours Program on the BA website redirects to ICC tournament fixtures.

The group will also take care of the transport facilities across England and Wales. “For every India match, there will be coaches plying across London, Southampton, Manchester etc.”

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BA TV will have a host who will “capture the atmosphere and the emotions”. 

“There will be a show called Breakfast With Bharat Army which will show the fans,” said Rakesh.

BA will also be launching a World Cup special anthem sung by Celina Sharma, daughter of Kunal Sharma – the co-owner of Spartan Sports.

“Our song will be played at the stadium when India is playing and at the fan parks. The ICC has approved it.”

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In the 2003 World Cup, BA wanted to celebrate India’s victory over Pakistan in Centurion with the cricketers. Rakesh and Co. had sent them a message with no expectations. “But the whole team had turned up. Captain Sourav Ganguly, Rahul Dravid, Yuvraj Singh, Harbhajan Singh, everyone came. We drank champagne together.”

The fans wouldn’t mind a repeat.

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