The fans' joy of welcoming 'Thala' Mahendra Singh Dhoni and his boys back in their den, the Chepauk, after Chennai Super Kings returned from a two-year ban hasn't lasted too long. Chennai Super Kings’ (CSK) homecoming has been cut short by the ongoing Cauvery protests in Tamil Nadu. The celebrations in the streets of Chennai after CSK's win over Kolkata Knight Riders in a cliff-hanger was not even over when news broke out that it was to be the last Indian Premier League (IPL) game in the city for this season.
CSK will now be playing their remaining six ‘home’ games in Pune and there won’t be a sea of yellow cheering for them from the stands, singing the ‘Whistle Podu’ song.
Such a pity!
Unlike any other IPL franchise, CSK have actually become one of Chennai’s identities, much like a football club in Europe. Anyone entering Chennai would be greeted with “You are in the city of Chennai Super Kings” at the airport. Kids would proudly wear CSK t-shirts while playing cricket at the Marina beach. In the local autorickshaws, you are most likely to find a picture of Dhoni alongside superstar Rajinikanth.
Chennaiites can relate themselves with CSK. They take a great deal of pride about the performance of Dhoni’s ‘Men in Yellow’, which has arguably been the most consistent team in the IPL since its commencement back in 2008.
This deep affection was evident during CSK’s first practice game at the Chepauk before the start of the ongoing edition of the IPL when we saw 10,000 fans cheering the players from the stands. And remember, Dhoni wasn’t even there.
Unfortunately, now with no more games in their den, these fans are left clutching at straws; clueless and shattered. In fact, whether it is IPL or international cricket, the Chennai crowd has always been known for its love for the game. Many of us still remember the standing ovation to Pakistan following their victory in that famous Test in 1999. Well, now due to a few fringe political elements, these cricket lovers are going to suffer.
Some of the disheartened fans in Chennai are now calling for a ban on movies. They believe if the matches can be banned, so can other forms of entertainment like movies and wine shops.
No home advantage for CSK
In hindsight, CSK too will miss this avid fan following. On numerous occasions, Dhoni had mentioned that the fans were CSK's biggest strength. He rightly understands that passionate support from the stands always motivates a team and probably that’s why CSK is hard to beat at Chepauk.
The manner in which they chased down 203 against KKR on Tuesday reflected the confidence level of this side. Following the triumph, ‘Player of the Match’ Sam Billings immediately dedicated the victory to the fans. And now, with no more games at the Chepauk, the English batsmen is left heartbroken, so are most of the other CSK players and support staff.
"Gutted that we have had to move from Chepauk' the atmosphere was unbelievable! Thoughts with the fan who was badly hurt last night, no one should go to watch & end up in hospital. Hope he recovers soon & all issues are resolved. Keep supporting us it makes a huge difference!," Billings wrote on Twitter.
Their new recruit Harbhajan Singh too expressed his disappointment. He tweeted, "Heart breaking news..no more ipl games in chennai.. fans have waited two years for CSK to play in front of them at home..hope all the issues get solved soon and matches comes back to chennai soon...Thank u for your love,wishes,prayers would be needed all the time. [sic]"
Meanwhile, shifting venues will also affect CSK’s gameplans. With three quality spin options in the team, Dhoni ideally would have preferred to play on the traditionally turning Chepuak wicket. But now, he is not sure of what to expect in Pune. Remember, in the pace department, CSK are heavily dependent on domestic resources and that seems like the only weakness of this team. So if the pitches do not offer spin in Pune, then their bowling might get exposed.
Furthermore, at the Maharashtra Cricket Association Stadium, there will be longer boundaries. So the batsmen too need to adapt accordingly. However, Dhoni and some of the other CSK players have played for Rising Pune Supergiant and that experience will be handy here.
Interestingly, in the 2014 edition of the IPL, CSK had played their home games in Ranchi (after playing the initial matches in UAE), due to the dispute between Tamil Nadu Cricket Association and the local municipal corporation and even at their adopted home, they remained a tough nut to crack and made it to the playoffs. The fans are expecting a similar performance from their beloved team this year as well.