As Chennai Super Kings plays its last home match against Delhi Daredevils today, Karthik Subramanian looks at what makes the team and its fans stand above the rest of the pack
One of the more outspoken cricketers from the Chennai Super Kings off-spinner R. Ashwin once told cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle that the Chennai team was trying to bring to the IPL what Manchester United has brought to the English Premier League.
This was some years back and Harsha asked the young off-spinner not to get too far ahead of himself. Besides jumping the gun (Manchester United got to where it is today after 20 league championships among a galaxy of other wins), the comparison between IPL and the English Premiership, or for that matter any European football league, is horribly skewed. Even talking about both leagues in the same breath is sacrilege.
Chennai seems to have a sea of Red Devils as much as the CSK’s Yellow Brigade, and at least for some fans who follow both the leagues with equal amount of passion, similarities do exist between the teams. S. Koushik, an IT professional, says both teams have the uncanny ability to come back from the brink to end the season on top of tables. “The CSK team also seems to have the approach where the sum of the whole is greater than the parts. Usually the winners of the orange cap (most runs) or the purple cap (most wickets) are from other teams. This year has been an exception. This is invariably how things pan out for Manchester United too.”
And although most CSK fans won’t admit it or maybe even realise it, they do come across to others as being boisterous thanks to that “I told you so” chest-thumping that comes at the end of every season.
The winning formula for CSK is no big secret. With the possible exception of Mumbai Indians, CSK has been the only other team in the IPL to have retained its core through the years. The continuity they have had with the likes of M.S. Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Mike Hussey, S. Badrinath, Murali Vijay and R. Ashwin being a constant feature in the team has made things easier for the fans in terms of connect.
“Take the example of Rahul Dravid,” says R. Mahesh, who supports both CSK and Rajasthan Royals in the current edition. “He got more ovation when he played in Bangalore than even Virat Kohli. I think CSK has nailed it from the fans’ perspective by building the team over six years with a group of players whom they identify with.”
While the fans are boisterous and loud, in tune with the flavour of IPL, the conduct of CSK players on the field has been by and large a matter of pride. Apart from finishing at the top of the heap every season, CSK prides itself by scoring high on the ‘fair play’ ratings too. This warms the hearts of many connoisseurs of the game who have prided themselves with Chepauk and the cricket-loving audience here having gained reputation for appreciating good cricket and not just that of the home side.
As the curtains draw on another season of IPL, and Chennai scheduled to play its last home match against Delhi Daredevils today, there is the familiar scenario. The team has lost two tough encounters against the Mumbai Indians and the Rajasthan Royals, and there is some chatter about how CSK might not make it to the finals this year. But to the hardcore CSK fan, this is just expected and very familiar territory. One has to just wait and watch. And of course, there is a good chance for that “I told you so”.