Dead game, no Dhoni, yet Chennai upbeat
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.
FULL HOUSE EXPECTED
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.