Australian spin legend Shane Warne on Tuesday stepped in to mend his country’s fractured ties with India, attending a picnic here with the Indian community, which has been targeted in a series of violent attacks in the past few months.

Warne met the community members of Victoria state, talked to them, posed for photographs and tried to allay the fears of the students, saying Australia is a great place to live in.

“I love India”

“I think the state sells itself, it’s just such a great state, it’s a great city to live in. I’ll keep pushing the message across over there, I love India, I love Rajasthan when I play cricket there, so to me it was a natural thing,” he said.

“I want to listen, really, to hear what the students have to say and see what these guys, how they’re feeling about things,” said Warne, who is quite popular among the Indian diaspora here.

The Victorian government asked the iconic cricketer to help them boost the state’s image in India after the recent attacks in Melbourne tarnished its reputation.

Dines with students

The leg-spinner, also dined with the students on the occasion and told the crowd: “It’s important for me as a Victorian... to keep building the relationship with India and Australia, and in particular Victoria.”

Warne will leave for India on Thursday to lead the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League commencing March 12.

Premier’s hope

Meanwhile, Victoria Premier John Brumby, who was also present, hoped Warne’s presence in India for the IPL would help improve Australia’s image.

“Shane’s been great in the support that he’s given the state just over the last year, particularly in relation to the bushfires, and where the sort of support that he can provide is so important in lifting spirits and giving people hope for the future,” Mr. Brumby said.

“We’re multicultural”

“We need to bear in mind all the great things about our state and we are a very warm, open, welcoming state. We love sport, we’re very multicultural, we’ve got nearly half of our population born overseas and with one of their parents born overseas, and we’ve got a good story to tell about all of us, about the great multicultural society that is Victoria, so we just need to get a bit of balance back into this debate,” he added.

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