IPL 2024: Dhoni & Co will be missed but Chennai will always root for good cricket

This, in fact, will be the first time in the 15 editions of IPL where the local crowd will not get to witness the Super Kings in action during the play-offs.
Last Updated : 23 May 2024, 14:08 IST
Last Updated : 23 May 2024, 14:08 IST

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Chennai: The burden of being ‘knowledgeable’ won’t be put to the test when the MA Chidambaram stadium in Chepauk plays host to the two scheduled play-offs games over the next three days because the venue will be packed to the rafters irrespective. 

That said, it will lack some sting because Chennai Super Kings aren’t going to be there to receive the love and adulation of fans they have been privileged to for 14 (they were suspended for 2016 and 2017) prior editions.

This, in fact, will be the first time in the 15 editions of the Indian Premier League where the local crowd will not get to witness the Super Kings in action during the play-offs. 

Granted, there have been only four occasions where the Chidambaram stadium has hosted at least one game in the play-offs, but it must be a peculiar sentiment nevertheless, and it reflected in the lack of commotion in the vicinity of the venue on the eve of Rajasthan Royals’ Qualifier 2 contest against Sunrisers Hyderabad.   

Typically, even if CSK didn’t have a practice session scheduled, the streets used to be lined with people waiting to catch a glimpse of any action at the gates. There was always hope, even when merely witnessing random ‘nets’ sessions through the grills which make the Muthu complex visually accessible even from the street (which street).

On Thursday, even as the Royals cancelled their practice session due to a delayed flight, the Sunrisers got their yards in on the main ground from 5 pm. To their left, finalists Kolkata Knight Riders got in a training session too.

And yet, nothing beyond the ropes would suggest that two very important games were going to be played in the next three days. It was all rather bland, not even a DJ to work out the playlist as he typically does in the lead-up to CSK games. 

“I don’t think you can put parochial and the Chennai crowd in the same sentence,” says former India batter WV Raman. “It would have been delightful had CSK come to the play-offs because of the venue, but surely there is no remorse, and there certainly won’t be a lack of support for the teams playing in the days to come.”

M Vijay, much like his predecessor from Tamil Nadu, insisted that the crowd will not change their attitude towards the game even if they’re heartbroken about the happenings of the last week. The Super Kings lost out on a chance to qualify for the play-offs following their loss against Royal Challengers Bengaluru at the M Chinnaswamy stadium a little under a week ago. 

“People here love to watch a good game of cricket,” says the former India opener. “It’s a little harsh on CSK because they were so close to qualifying but they will move on and come back stronger. The same can be said about the crowd, that’s why there is this bond between the team, the crowd and the city. But the city has always been like this, not just with CSK.”

Vijay would have been all of 15-years-old when the city earned the ‘knowledgeable Chennai crowd’ moniker. Raman was older at the time but he grew up with the city’s ability to appreciate good cricket. 

It, the moniker, transpired because of the evening of January 31, 1999 when Pakistan edged out India by a whisker in the opening Test. 

There was plenty of political tension between the countries at the time. The Feroz Shah Kota pitch was dug up by Shiv Sent supporters. Vandals from the same party barged into the Board of Control for Cricket in India headquarters in Mumbai and damaged property, including the 1983 Prudential Cup. The Test was shifted to Chennai. 

Eventually, four days of sweat, tension, skill and magic were witnessed. But what stood out was the standing ovation the fans doled out to the visiting Pakistan side. It was a gesture former Pakistan skipper Wasim Akram still recalls fondly.

The Chennai crowd surely hasn’t digested the fact that it has seen the last of CSK for the year, and probably the last of MS Dhoni forever, but it will put that aside what it desires and do what is right: appreciate cricket for what it really is. 

Published 23 May 2024, 14:08 IST

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