Finally, my report of what went down on the evening of May 4! A little late, I know, but I've been around a bit since then, and, well. The Chennai summer has been sapping me of the will to live, leave alone write.
However! Here we go.
It was the afternoon of the fourth of May, and it was HOT. I mean, not any more than usual, but it's not the kind of afternoon you'd want to play cricket in. With much sympathy (a rare thing for fans as entitled as we), three of my friends and I met up at a shopping mall nearby and took an autorickshaw to about as close as it could get to the stadium. On the way, we saw the team bus, and possibly spotted Albie Morkel at the window. Excited? Hell yeah.
Having purchased our CSK caps from one of the several vendors lurking around, and having made sure we were all decked in yellow, we proceeded to walk toward our designated gate. We were soaked in sweat by the end of that walk. I was dreading how much more of our body volume we were about to lose inside the stadium.
Security was... well. About as tight as they could manage. We knew about the no-food, no-water rule, but they also confiscated my tube of sunscreen and my friend's deo spray, which, well. Kind of pissed us off. Serves you right if my face comes off in great bloody strips and the toxic fumes from several thousand sweaty armpits kill us all, was my thought. In retrospect, it was probably silly, but that close to the stadium? I think I was already prepping myself for mindless emotional reactions. Yay!
So! Into the stadium we went. It'd been three years since I'd last been to the MAC (the last time was a CSK v DC match I went to with my family; that happened to be one of the only two games DC managed to win the whole '08 season, so I warned the others that they were taking a bad-luck charm with them). It looked... pretty, with the giant white canopies and the gaps between the stands and the profusion of giant screens (counted at least three at first glance). The major improvement, though? The seats. Also, the general appearance had made a giant improvement: I remember the first time I visited the MAC and being hugely disappointed by how shabby everything looked. Now, though? I felt like I was really visiting the stadium for the first time.
Our stand was the I stand, lower tier, which was fantastic because it was right by where the players practiced before the match started. The Men in Startlingly Bright Yellow were already there, stretching and doing catching practice when we arrived. The Rajasthan Royals had not come out yet, and the stadium was just starting to slowly fill in. Armed with those inflatable Zoozoo headband things we went straight to the fence to start gaping at the players ("who's that with the weirdass shirt?" "Hussey?" "You kidding me? That's Albie." "ALBIE! Look here!")
Just as Raina was leaving, we called out to him, waving frantically. He turned back, grinned at the four of us, and waved back. Did I mention Raina is awesome? Because he is. We tried the same with Morkel; he kinda glanced back and gave a reluctant little wave with his hand still near his hip; Badrinath didn't even respond. Which is kind of rude, since we were the only people out there calling for him. (We didn't laugh when his pants came down, though. Not much, anyway.)
So as the toss and the pre-match interviews went on ("there's no time gap between the pitch-report and the toss?" gasped my friend, a first-timer. Aaah, the routine of watching cricket on TV. Anything for ads featuring two-timing girls with bulky mobile phones.) and we started settling in (not really). We painted giant yellow hearts on one side of our cheeks and a CSK player's name on the other (I was "Ashwin" by the way; why not Dhoni, you ask? Ashwin needs all the fan-support he can get, yo! Plus it occupied maximum space, so. Y'know. Fun.)
So there we were, screaming and laughing and creating a right royal ruckus a good half-hour before the match had even begun. We managed to draw the attention of the official CSK website photographer, who snapped us grinning wide enough to split our faces open. Aaaand the photo came on the CSK website!
Our 0.2 seconds of fame, I declared.
Anyway. The match started, and it was tremendous fun. For one, it was actually cool. As in, it was pleasant and not horribly stuffy as we'd dreaded, mostly due to the fact that there'd been a lovely cool breeze blowing every few minutes. Also, we were in the shady part of the stadium, which meant there was no direct sunlight. It was an amazingly pleasant surprise.
Dravid was going great guns - it was a little surreal to be watching it real-time with no closeups of the batsman or following the ball as it went to the boundary; I swear at one point I was grasping at thin air for an invisible remote - and there was much chanting of "C-S-K! C-S-K!" from behind us in encouragement. Just to rile them up, we would go "Ra-jas-than! Ra-jas-than!" every time they started their chant. What? It was fun, although we did get a lot of funny looks.
However, we didn't always have a great view of the action, and had to move a little higher later in the second innings. Another disadvantage of being where we were was that Aniruddha Srikkanth kept fielding right in front of us, and we had a near-constant view of his generously-endowed posterior and his occasional fielding gaffe (he fell right over the ball even as it raced under him in the first over. I pray he didn't hear us cursing. We love you really, Aniruddha!).
Wickets fell like rain in the last ten overs - skiers falling down the throat of Murali Vijay, mostly; damn, that man must be a specialist in that sort of thing by now - and we screamed, oh how we screamed! Gave high-fives and vent to our throats in a way that would've cracked glass were we watching this at home. This is it, I thought, this is aaaall it's about. And it's brilliant.
It was. To give yourself to the ebbs and flows of the game like that, with complete abandon, and have ten thousand others do it with you? The feeling is like the best drug, man.
The second innings began, and perhaps the only blip there was that we lost Vijay early (one of my friends who's a HUGE Vijay fan was crushed; I laughed until I was reminded that I'd react the same way if Dhoni were to get out early. Which, y'know. Touche.) and that the result was all too predictable toward the end. "Let Raina get out and Dhoni come in!" cried my first-timer friend. "Let it be a cliffhanger like the Kolkata game!" Hell-llo. Gift. Horse. Mouth. A strict no-no. That is all.
At the end, Raina did get out with 4 to get, which amused me to no end. We cheered for Shane Watson and Johan Botha to break up the monotony ("Botha! Botha! Bo-THA!" "Dude. That sounds wrong." "Um. Johan, Johan?" "THE J IS SILENT!" "Geez. You sound like you're his mother.")
Shaun Tait, who was not playing but passed by where we sat, received a few cheers from us, too. He turned and gave a small wave, which, yay.
There were many aborted attempts at Mexican waves - aborted because one section of the crowd, the stand right next to us, in fact, would just not get up. Finally they did, and we did six continuous Waves. It was kind of awesome.
The winning moment was more of a "finally!" than a "wow! awesome!" moment, but yeah. A superbly comprehensive victory, the weather was great, and we were not the little puddles of skin-coloured goo on the cemented floor as we'd feared. The drinks were a tad expensive - Rs. 60 for an iced tea that was neither iced and tasted nothing like tea; in fact, it kinda tasted like ultra-diluted beer, but an incredibly enjoyable experience otherwise. There's nothing like being there, particularly with friends who are just as cricket-crazy as you.
Let me tell you what I love about this CSK team. They are a team. They are about the most locally represented team out there. Badrinath, Vijay, Ashwin... indispensable. (My heart still aches that Balaji is among the men in yellow anymore). I love that there's always somebody who steps up when the others aren't performing: if it's Hussey and Raina one day, it's Albie and Dhoni the next, or Vijay and Badrinath. If Albie and Randiv are bowling crap, it's Dougie and Jakati; if it's Ashwin and Bravo one day, it's Raina and Kulasekara the other. Mumbai is all Tendulkar, Rayudu and Malinga; Bangalore = Gayle. Not so Chennai. I love it.
I especially love that these guys can come back from bad situations and fight blood, tooth and nail till either victory or the very last ball. Is why they are the most successful IPL team out there any mystery? I don't think so.
Wisden Obituaries you may have missed Part I
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