Wednesday, June 7, 2023
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IPL diary: Fans throng stadiums to watch Dhoni play for probably the last time


As Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings — the two most successful teams in the history of the Indian Premier League — squared off in a group league fixture at the iconic Wankhede Stadium, chants of ‘ Dhoni, Dhoni’ and a sea of yellow with cheering fans sporting the team colours made the Super Kings feel at home.

It being a long weekend, the Mumbai Cricket Association office-bearers had a hard time dealing with the soaring demand for tickets. With no tickets available online, several fans even gathered outside the stadium hours before the match, hoping to get lucky.

“We were in Mumbai on a family vacation, so we thought of watching the game at the Wankhede Stadium. We were hoping to get a couple of tickets, but with such a huge demand, we could not manage to get any,” said Karthik, an engineering student, who had come with his elder brother.

A few MCA office-bearers told Sportstar that there was a huge pressure for tickets, given the fact that this could be Dhoni’s last season at CSK. While they tried to provide passes to as many people as possible, the MCA office-bearers admitted that after a long time, there was such a huge demand for tickets. “It’s quite normal during the IPL that people ask for tickets. But this time, so many people living outside Mumbai called and texted us, asking for a ticket so that they could watch Dhoni,” an official said.

And that excitement was visible as the Chennai Super Kings players walked in to warm up before the toss. The fans cheered for the cricketers and even chanted ‘ Chinna Thala’ when they spotted Suresh Raina, who is a part of the IPL expert panel. Raina, a former Super King, waved at the crowd with a broad smile.

Despite it being a home game for Mumbai Indians, the serpentine queues, the sounds of the vuvuzelas and the huge yellow flags were reminiscent of the Wallahjah Road, leading to the Chepauk Stadium, in Chennai.

And you thought Wankhede Stadium was the den of Mumbai Indians!

Mum is the word

Back in 2021, when four-time Major winner Naomi Osaka refused to attend mandatory press conferences at the French Open, journalists, especially those from the West, were quick to declare the death of media briefings. One scribe went as far as to say “we’re not the good guys” and “modern press conference is no longer a meaningful exchange but really a lowest-common-denominator transaction: a cynical and often predatory game in which the object is to mine as much content from the subject as possible.”

Anybody who tried to extract any little information from Ajinkya Rahane ahead of the IPL 2023 opener against Gujarat Titans would have been left scratching their heads. It beggared belief that for such a high-profile match, a player who had next to no chance of making the Chennai Super Kings playing XI was sent. The former India captain dead-batted everything in sight, despite all the questions being harmless and innocuous, and didn’t even want to provide an update regarding CSK’s injured pacer Mukesh Choudhary. This was eventually given by the team’s media in-charge and the fact that it was the only news-worthy bit of the evening said a lot. Press conferences don’t die only because of the journalists. They can sometimes be killed by the subjects as well.

Hot shot: Kyle Mayers of Lucknow Super Giants has blown everyone away with a string of stellar performances.

Hot shot: Kyle Mayers of Lucknow Super Giants has blown everyone away with a string of stellar performances.
| Photo Credit: PTI

Mayers proves his worth

Lucknow Super Giants spent Rs. 6.75 crore to secure the services of Quinton de Kock in the 2022 player auction. The South African paid them back too, scoring 508 runs at an average of 36.28 and a strike rate of 148.97, with a highest score of 140 not out. You would have expected him to be a permanent fixture in the Lucknow eleven in IPL’s Season 16, too.

But he did not figure in any of the first three matches: he wasn’t available for the first two, as he was on national duty. That gave the West Indian left-hander Kyle Mayers an unexpected opportunity and he responded with scores of 73 (38b), on his IPL debut, and 53 (22b) against Delhi Capitals and Chennai Super Kings respectively. He has already proved his worth, Super Giants having bought him for Rs. 50 lakh at the 2022 auction.

Fan moment

Guwahati aligned itself to the pink and blue of Rajasthan Royals as it welcomed the Indian Premier League to its shore for the first time.

The home fans at the Barsapara Stadium wore myriad shades of pink for the match against Punjab Kings, thanks to a mix of official and non-official merchandise.

Amidst the sea of pink, there were floating specks of yellow, of Chennai Super Kings, to the extent that it looked like they might overpower Punjab Kings fans in the stands.

Armed with its broken Hindi, the diary made its way to those CSK fans, curious why they were there to support a team not playing on the day.

The reason was straightforward. “We want Rajasthan to win. But above that, we love M. S. Dhoni. Nothing matters more than him and his side.”

The diary wondered what would have been if CSK had a game here; would their yellow have washed out the Royal pink?

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