Cricket diplomacy was in abundance at a rare reception given to Narendra Modi at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground with the Prime Minister saying a "new journey" in India-Australia relationship has begun.
Addressing the select gathering at the reception hosted by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and attended by cricket greats like Sunil Gavaskar, Kapil Dev, Allan Border and Dean Jones among others, Modi heaped effusive praise on Australia's sporting culture and thanked his Australian counterpart his "truly generous hospitality".
Modi described his speech at the 161-year-old MCG ground "close to scoring a century here especially against McGrath and Brett Lee" and said, "This memory will stay with me forever."
"Many Indians wake up early on a cold December morning to watch on TV a Boxing Day Test at this magnificent stadium! I know that India has not done particularly well in this ground! But, we won the 1985 Champions Trophy here. And, Gavaskar and Kapil Dev are here!
"As is Laxman, who especially loved to bat against Australia. To speak to you at this historic ground comes close to scoring a century here especially against McGrath and Brett Lee. I met him yesterday. The best I managed was to head the Gujarat Cricket Association," he said.
Talking about the MCG, Modi said it would be a deserving venue for the Cricket World Cup finals 2015 and hope that India and Australia will play that match.
"No business is serious enough to keep an Australian and an Indian from discussing this great game," Modi said.
Before the dinner by Abbott, Modi presented "skippers" memento carrying replica of Mahatma Gandhi's charkha with three cricket balls signed by him and World Cup winning Indian captains Kapil Dev and M S Dhoni.
Modi Abbott posed with the 2015 cricket World Cup trophy. Australia hosts the cricket World Cup next year.
Modi said, "My memorable visit to Australia ends tonight, but a new journey of our relationship has begun." The Prime Minister also noted that people asked him that isn't it too soon for him to visit Australia after Abbott's recent trip to India "I said I can't say no to my friend Tony".
He also raised a toast "to the Queen" and to the people of Australia at the banquet hosted by Tony Abbott.
(With inputs from PTI)