INDIAN students took to the streets in a face-off with Victoria Police in Melbourne this afternoon, albeit for a very different cause – harmony through cricket.
The match was played out on Rutledge Lane, a grungy alley not far from Federation Square.
Organised by Cricket Victoria, the game was held to defuse tension between Indian students and police.
At the end of last month, a peaceful protest attended by thousands over a series of targeted attacks on Indian students turned ugly as rowdy protesters clashed with police.
Eighteen people were detained by police for breaching the peace.
Victorian cricketer Brad Hodge, who has represented Australia and the Kolkota Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League, was among those who took part in the cricket friendly.
“Sports is obviously a very good ground to get relationships back on track and obviously cricket is an integral part of Australian sport. This is a stepping stone to rebuild the friendship,” he said.
Federation of Indian Students of Australia (FISA) president Amit Menghani said the cricket match was a good way of putting a positive spin on an otherwise delicate situation.
“There was so much sensitivity within the situation right now, that we wanted something postive,” Mr Menghani said.
“Cricket for both our countries means a lot…and we wanted to get the Victoria Police involved as well, so it shows some sort of multiculturalism, [and] it shows that we would be able to integrate within society.”
Senior Constable Craig Spicer believes relationships between Indian students and police has improved.
“And this today will highlight the relations, and show the Indian students that we are committed to working with [them],” he said.
But Mr Menghani was realistic in his expectations of what the day’s game would achieve.
“It might be a good start, but it’s a very basic, initial start,” Mr Menghani said.
“There are so many things that can be done. [Victoria Police] have actually taken the initiative of increasing the police work force, which is a fantastic step.’‘
Rimpy Singh, 23, an accounting student from Swinburne University who had come to enjoy a good game of cricket with his friends, agreed.
“I think a long-term solution is needed,” Mr Singh said.
“We are capable [of] moving forward. But Victoria Police and Indian students have to work together to move past this last week,” he said.