It was just another humid, dull afternoon on Tuesday along Wallajah Road, which leads to the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chepauk.
The collective buzz — the chatter, the cheering, the music and the sheer energy that a crowd of over 50,000 generates — was conspicuous by its absence. Around the same time, the city’s IPL franchise, the Chennai Super Kings, was doing at Ranchi’s Jharkhand State Cricket Association’s stadium what it does best: pulling off a thrilling last-over win.
It goes without saying that Chepauk missing out on hosting the IPL season this year has deprived several fans of their dose of summer entertainment. Over the past six years, it has become a calendar event for the city. That the team is one of the most consistent in the league is an added bonus.
One such fan is Amrutha Manisekar, whose family watches at least two matches at the stadium every IPL season. “I just finished my plus two and am waiting for college admission. Last year my dad said we couldn’t go to the matches as I had classes. So this year I was looking forward to watching the matches at the stadium. But since it is not happening in Chennai it is a big disappointment for my family,” she said.
Sreedhar Panaman, a Bangalore resident and a die-hard CSK fan, was eagerly planning to come to the city and watch a match at the stadium with his friends. “Last IPL season, I had taken a vow to come to Chepauk to watch the match and cheer with my friends. Now those plans have gone for a toss,” he said.
Entrepreneur Gilbert James turned down VIP passes for the CSK match at Ranchi and other places since travelling to Ranchi was not an exciting proposition. “A home match in Chennai with my friends can never be the same elsewhere. This season is a disappointment with the first half held in UAE due to elections; and now, it is unfortunate that a timely solution to host CSK matches in Chennai couldn’t be found despite the court’s advice,” he said.
“Cricket is God,” says H. Saravanan, a resident of Ernavur, who works in a cement warehouse, and saves money just to splurge during IPL seasons. “I save money in a chit savings scheme and with that money I ensure that I don’t miss even a single match that happens at the Chepauk Stadium. India Cements sponsored tickets for matches in Delhi, Mumbai and Cuttack. But I am missing today’s match. Watching cricket on TV is just not like watching it at the stadium,” he said.
(Reporting by Deepa H. Ramakrishnan, Karthik Subramanian and K. Manikandan)