Anthony Albanese 'upset the rhythm of the game' as photo divides cricket world

The Australian prime minster took part in a strange pre-match ceremony ahead of the fourth Test against India.

Anthony Albanese, pictured here linking arms with the players to sing the national anthem before the fourth Test.
Anthony Albanese linked arms with the players to sing the national anthem before the fourth Test. Image: Getty/Fox Cricket

Anthony Albanese was unwittingly caught in bizarre and controversial scenes ahead of the fourth Test between Australia and India on Thursday after an extraordinary display of pageantry alongside counterpart Narendra Modi. Albanese is in India for trade talks with Modi in a show of friendship and solidarity between Australia and India.

The diplomacy extended to the cricket field on Thursday ahead of the fourth Test, which is being played at the 130,000-capacity Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad. Albanese and Modi were paraded around the ground in front of spectators on a float, before taking part in a pre-match ceremony with captains Steve Smith and Rohit Sharma.

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If that wasn't enough, the prime ministers also took the field with the players to sing the respective national anthems, with Albanese linking arms with Smith to belt out Advance Australia Fair. Albanese and Modi's faces have also been plastered on multiple billboards around the stadium, including one on the sight screens at either end.

Steve Smith, Anthony Albanese, Narendra Modi and Rohit Sharma, pictured here before the fourth Test.
Steve Smith, Anthony Albanese, Narendra Modi and Rohit Sharma. (Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images)

The extraordinary scenes proved divisive for cricket fans and commentators, especially considering it meant the players weren't allowed to warm up on the field and caused a delay to the start of the match. But the pre-match ceremony wasn't nearly as jarring for fans as seeing Albanese singing the anthem with the players.

Sports journalist Russell Barrett tweeted: "We get it - Our Albo is meeting Modi in India at Ahmedabad, and that’s great for international diplomacy and the relationship with the two countries. But standing next to the players as they sing the anthem prior to a Test match? Nah, it’s just weird."

Lachlan McKirdy made mention of Scott Morrison's famous WhatsApp group with Pat Cummins and Justin Langer, tweeting: "Scott Morrison had the 'legends' group chat but Albo is actually out there singing the anthem with the lads. I know who the real winner is."

While Daniel Brettig commented: "Aust win the toss and elect to felicitate, sorry, bat first. I've seen it all now. Sorry, almost all. Albanese linking arms with the Australian team for the anthem is something very new."

Anthony Albanese stunt 'upset the rhythm of the game'

Speaking on Fox Cricket's coverage, Brendon Julian said the political display may have disrupted the players' preparation and resulted in India's horror start. Wicket-keeper KS Bharat allowed eight byes in the first over before grassing a regulation catch from a Travis Head outside edge.

“There’s so much stuff that had to be done before this Test match … they weren’t allowed to warm up out in the middle, they were rushed out the back,” Julian said. “I think that can upset the rhythm of the game.”

Albanese and Modi reportedly left the stadium just 40 minutes into the first session of play due to other commitments. When the match finally got underway, it was Australia who took the spoils on a day unlike anything we've seen so far this series.

While the first three matches of the series have been played on dry and cracking pitches that have produced plenty of spin and uneven bounce, the surface in Ahmedabad appears much better for batting. Usman Khawaja made a brilliant unbeaten century and Cameron Green went to stumps on 49 not out as Australia reached 4-255. India lead the series 2-1, but Australia can salvage a series draw with victory in the fourth Test.

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