A roaring crowd at MAC stadium witnessed suspense, style and panache at the epic game

Chennai ensured that all the ingredients, generally believed to guarantee a blockbuster, were perfectly in place. Last Sunday of the year. Check. Masses thirsting for quality entertainment. Check. India-Pakistan cricket match in the city after 13 years. Check. 

Chennai loves its films dearly. And in appropriately cinematic fashion, there lingered a troubling suspense. Persistent showers over the last two days fuelled pessimism: many wondered if the game would take place at all. While grey clouds hung menacingly over the M.A. Chidambaram (MAC) Stadium, rain graciously stayed away during the match to let the 32,000-plus crowd enjoy the experience.

There was also another kind of experience on offer – an early visit to the stadium. Fattened by a lavish diet of ‘night’ games during the IPL, and with the city last hosting a Test match four years ago, a scheduled 9 a.m. start (play actually began at 10 a.m. because of a wet outfield) seemed a throwback to a different age. Journalists were asked to be present at the venue as early as 7.30 a.m. because of the elaborate security procedures involved.

The ride to Chepauk at dawn did turn out to be quite refreshing; the serene atmosphere on the way eventually ceding ground to the amped-up exuberance at the MAC.  

When the contest was finally underway, fans were thrilled to see their favourite batsmen take strike. But there was to be disappointment as five Indian batsmen departed with a measly 29 runs on the board. 

However, with the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) trio of M.S. Dhoni, Suresh Raina, and local boy R. Ashwin counter-attacking with panache, the crowd re-discovered its collective roar. R. Anand, a city-based chartered accountant, who watched the game from the ‘E’ upper stand, re-emphasised the CSK connection. “India scored 29 for five while CSK scored 198 for one (both figures include extras). I absolutely loved the captain’s [Dhoni] knock! When Ashwin came out to bat, the entire stand was cheering for him,” he said.

S. Anish, a Bangalore-based finance professional, found the atmosphere enjoyable but was surprised there were a few vacant seats.

“The crowd was as sporting and fun-loving as it always is. When [Nasir] Jamshed scored his hundred, people clapped for him wholeheartedly,” he said.

Anand was in agreement. “After Pakistan won, the crowd rose to applaud. That’s always nice to see.”

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