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© Neena Bhandari, Indo Asian News Service

ImageMelbourne, March 23 (IANS) In a country smitten by sports, a new state-of-the art National Sports Museum at the Melbourne Cricket Ground seeks to capture 150 years of Australian sporting life and moments that have shaped the country's rich sporting traditions. The museum has an array of exciting exhibits, which will interest the increasing number of Indian tourists, especially cricket fans visiting Melbourne.

According to Tourism Australia, there were 95,200 visitors from India during 2007, an increase of 14 percent relative to 2006.

There is a special section devoted to the 10 cricket playing nations, which features three of India's most revered cricketers: Sunil Gavaskar, who played in 125 Test matches from 1970 to 1987 and was the first player to make 10,000 Test runs; Kapil Dev, the only player to make 5,000 runs and capture 400 wickets in Test cricket, and the much loved master batsman Sachin Tendulkar.

Also on display is a pullover worn by Tendulkar during the 1999-2000 tour of Australia, a blazer worn by Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi during the 1967-1968 Australia tour, a Test cap worn by Dilip Vengsarkar on the 1985-1986 tour of Australia, a Test cap worn by Gavaskar and a bat used and signed by him, and the Border-Gavaskar Trophy

The other cricket greats featured in the exhibition include Australia's former and present captains - Steve Waugh and Ricky Ponting - and Shane Warne, England's Ian Botham, South Africa's Jacques Kallis, the West Indies' Gary Sobers, Vivian Richards and Brian Lara, New Zealand's Richard Hadlee and Stephen Fleming, Pakistan's Imran Khan and Sri Lanka's Arjuna Ranatunga, Sanath Jayasuriya and Muttiah Muralitharan.

An entire room is dedicated to the baggy green caps, donned by Australian players, with a life-size sculpture of Don Bradman portraying his famous cover-drive as the centrepiece.

The 'Backyard to Baggy Green' exhibition traces the evolution of equipment used in cricket, its rules and undeniable spirit.

Speaking at the opening of this first fully-dedicated sports museum, the master spinner Shane Warne said: "The National Sports Museum is at the MCG - where else would it be? - it is the absolute home of sport. For me to have some of my things shown alongside names like Donald Bradman and Viv Richards and that pommy (English) bloke Ian Botham, I think, is an incredible achievement."

"The People's Ground" exhibition presents a history of Australia's spiritual home of sport - the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

It highlights MCG's World Heritage Listing status, the important role it has played in the history of cricket, the 1956 Olympic games, Australian football and as a home for thousands of Australian and US servicemen during World War II.

The Indian sports fans will also be delighted to tour the Olympic Museum and find details of the Olympic games, which feature India winning the gold medal for hockey at the 1956 Olympics held at the MCG.

Warne said: "I can't wait to take my kids down there - I think they're really going to enjoy it, especially as all the sports - not just cricket - are covered at the museum."

The museum showcases Olympic and Paralympic games and a range of sporting subjects, including Australian football, basketball, boxing, cycling, golf, hockey, netball, rugby union, rugby league, soccer and tennis.

At the museum opening March 13, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had said, "Sport speaks a universal language in this country - we are a nation of players and enthusiasts. The new National Sports Museum will tell the Australian sporting story - from its early beginnings to the present day - and will offer all Australians the opportunity to celebrate the heroes, the moments and achievements of our rich sporting culture."

Located across two levels of the Olympic Stand inside Gate 3 at the MCG, the museum is home to more than 2,300 items from Australia's richsporting history, celebrating the important place sport holds in Australian life.

© Copyright Neena Bhandari. All rights reserved. Republication, copying or using information from any content is expressly prohibited without  the permission of the writer and the news agency through which the article is syndicated.




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