Dead game, no Dhoni, yet Chennai up­beat

Hindustan Times ST (Jaipur) - - Htsportsmax - Sid­harth Gu­lati sid­­

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 T20 in Aus­tralia.

Cricket fans in Chennai are known to keep their emo­tions in check. De­spite Sachin Ten­dulkar’s valiant knock in a los­ing cause against Pak­istan in 1999, Fan on MS Dhoni’s ab­sence from the Chennai T20

the crowd at Chep­auk gave a stand­ing ova­tion to Wasim Akram’s team. But it’s fair to say Dhoni has changed equa­tions. Fans wear their hearts on their sleeves when it comes to the Chennai Su­per Kings cap­tain. The way Dhoni has con­nected with this city, he has earned this un­con­di­tional love.

“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.

One fan ex­pressed his sen­ti­ment

about In­dia skip­per Vi­rat Kohli, who was rested be­cause of the gru­elling sched­ule: “The kind of form he’s in, it would have been great had he played. (I) will miss those cover drives.” Though fans will miss the two pow­er­houses, the MA Chi­dambaram sta­dium will be abuzz with cricket fa­nat­ics from around the city and other states. “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 official.

Given West Indies’ prow­ess in T20s, Sun­day’s match could have been the most con­se­quen­tial 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. In the ab­sence of Dhoni, Kohli and all­rounder 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 three T20s 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 last op­por­tu­nity to make those real-time checks and bal­ances be­fore they set sail for Aus­tralia.

CHENNAI: We are thala’s (leader in Tamil) su­per fans. It’s dif­fi­cult to imag­ine an In­dia and Chennai Su­per Kings side with­out him.

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