Dead game, no Dhoni, yet Chennai up­beat

Hindustan Times (Delhi) - - HTSPORTSMAX - Sid­harth Gu­lati sid­­

CHENNAI: Af­ter mas­sive protests by Cau­very ac­tivists which saw six In­dian Premier League matches this sea­son shifted out of Chennai, the venue is back to host­ing In­dia’s fi­nal home game this year in which the World No 2 T20 side will aim for clean sweep against a strug­gling West Indies.

But there is an un­mis­tak­able sense of empti­ness among the fans who will be brac­ing to watch a T20 not fea­tur­ing their ‘tha­laivar’. There is no one word that can sum up Chennai’s af­fec­tion for Ma­hen­dra Singh Dhoni, who was dropped from the In­dia T20 squad as part of their plans for the 2020 World Twenty20 in Aus­tralia.

Cricket fans in Chennai are known to keep their emo­tions in check. De­spite Sachin Ten- dulkar’s valiant knock in a los­ing cause against Pak­istan in 1999, the crowd at Chep­auk gave a stand­ing ova­tion to Wasim Akram’s team. But it’s fair to say Dhoni has changed equa­tions. “It’s sad that thala (leader in Tamil) will not be here on Sun­day. We are go­ing to miss him,” said a fan called Bhava. “We are Thala’s su­per fans. It’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine an In­dia and CSK side with­out him,” said an­other fan named Jayanand.


The MA Chi­dambaram sta­dium should be abuzz on Sun­day though. “We are ex­pect­ing a full house. We still have some time. Around 75-80% of the tick­ets have been sold,” said a Tamil Nadu Cricket As­so­ci­a­tion (TNCA) official.

Given West Indies’ prow­ess in T20s, Sun­day’s match could have been the most con­se­quen- tial tie of the tour. But the story has been the same across for­mats in the last 40 days — In­dia’s con­tin­ued dom­i­na­tion and West Indies’ in­abil­ity to cash in on big mo­ments.

Wicket-keeper bats­man De­nesh Ramdin be­lieves the ab­sence of se­nior play­ers — Chris Gayle, An­dre Russell and Su­nil Narine — has been a ma­jor rea­son. “It’s dif­fi­cult to build a team given the cur­rent sce­nario when you look at our World T20 play­ers. They’re in de­mand all over the world, so yes, we’re suf­fer­ing in that as­pect. Our se­nior play­ers did not turn up for the tour, and that’s one of the rea­sons why we’re 2-0 down in this se­ries.”

He also said West Indies bats­men have been strug­gling to pick chi­na­man bowler Kuldeep Ya­dav. “Guys haven’t been able to pick him, and ba­si­cally he was been one of the threats in the mid­dle overs and un­for­tu­nately we couldn’t push on.”

In the ab­sence of Dhoni, Kohli and all-rounder Hardik Pandya, young­sters Khaleel Ahmed and Krunal

Pandya have stepped up, show­ing In­dia’s re­serves depth ahead of the tours of Aus­tralia and New Zealand.

In­dia’s tour of Aus­tralia com­prises of three T20s on November 21, 23 and 25 be­fore a four-match Test se­ries and a three­match ODI se­ries. Start­ing well makes a huge dif­fer­ence Down Un­der, even if it’s in a T20 se­ries. Sun­day pro­vides In­dia the l ast op­por­tu­nity to make those real-time checks and bal­ances be­fore they set sail for Aus­tralia.

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