Cricket buffs out in full force

Chennai Super Kings supporters at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium, Chepauk, on Sunday.   | Photo Credit:

Ajai Sreevatsan

CHENNAI: It is time to bring out the yellow flags and M.S. Dhoni figurines. After a one-year hiatus, the Indian Premier League (IPL) is back in town and cricket fans made a beeline for the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium at Chepauk on Sunday.

S. Sivashankar, who was looking forward to his first-ever T20 match in a stadium, said: “For those three hours, I'll be cheering as much for Hayden as I would for Dhoni. As long as they are playing for my city, nationality does not matter.”

Ardent Chennai lovers were out in full force, with their faces painted and waving CSK flags. There were also huge crowds relying on last-minute luck to get a ticket. “I won't be able to sleep tonight if I don't get a ticket to watch the match,” said S. Arjun.

While city loyalty got some to the stadium, it was family loyalty which worked for others like Rani Susheel. “I don't understand cricket. I'm here just for my husband and son. I hope I'll at least enjoy the atmosphere,” she said.

The glitz and glamour of IPL matches does bring in the crowds, but for someone like 57-year-old G. Ramadoss, who still fondly remembers watching his first cricket match in February 1967, the change has been dramatic.

“There is too much commercialisation. It's not a game anymore. It's an event,” said Vikram Narasimhan, a spectator. “This type of cricket is about enjoying an evening. The crowd's gain is cricket's loss.”

Since the game has become a money-making venture, Vikram added, the clubs have even cancelled season tickets. “I have to buy a ticket for every match so that they can maximise their profits.”