CHENNAI: For almost the entire four hours of the IPL final played on Sunday, cheering for the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) at the MA Chidambaram stadium was an impossible task.
The moment anybody uttered the word KKR, the 35,000 strong yellow brigade that had turned up to motivate their Kings began cheering in rapture. “CSK… CSK… CSK,” roared the crowd, silencing the islands of Kolkata fans in a jiffy.
But cut to the final few moments of the contest and the fans from Kolkata had their sweet revenge. When Manoj Tiwary hit the final shot to the deep square leg boundary, the only sound heard in the stands was that of Knights dancing in the isles as they witnessed their men end the reign of the lions in their own den.
The fluctuating mood during the match was a tale in itself. When CSK won the toss and began a clinical batting performance that saw two huge partnerships, many were pretty confident of a hat rick of titles.
“I do not think any team can chase down such a score in the finals. The pressure will get to them at some point,” murmured a CSK fan sitting right next to this reporter on the top tier when the scoreboard ticked to 171 for 2 in the 18th over.
When you watch the match with such a large turnout there can hardly be a dearth of entertainment. And fans who turn up drunk provide some of the funniest moments. When the 19th over of the CSK innings was in progress, a lone voice in the crowd at the I stand was heard cheering for the Rajasthan Royals, a team that never even made it to the play-offs. When fellow spectators took the pains to explain to the man he was making a mistake, pat came the answer, “I bought tickets. Bring the Royals here now.” The demand earned the attention of the security, which whisked him away.
There were also some supposedly intelligent questions. When Sunil Narine began his spell, a voice was heard to ask, “His name sounds south Indian. Were his ancestors Iyyengars?”
Most wrote off KKR the moment their captain, Gautam Gambhir, was bowled by a brilliant delivery. That was when the Mexican Wave in the stadium began, creating a ripple effect in the sea of yellow that occupied the stands. But when Manvinder Bisla, the man who took the game away from CSK, began his flurry of strokes, most people watched in disbelief. “I have rarely seen such clean hitting in my life. It takes Chennai to make extraordinary players out of unknown ones,” rued a fan.
The value of his wicket can be assessed by the way the crowd reacted to the lofted shot that got him out. As Badrinath stood below the ball waiting for the catch the entire stadium went silent, holding its breath. And then came the eruption of joy as Badri’s hands grasped the ball.
However, the buzz was short-lived. By the time Hilfenhaus made the terrible mistake of bowling a no ball in the penultimate over which cost the team a valuable 6 runs (counting the boundary off the extra ball), most fans began making their way out in frustration.
“If they cannot defend 190, they do not deserve to win tonight. But the team will always have our support. They have made us proud in all the IPL editions to date,” remarked Vishal, a 12-year-old, promising to return to cheer CSK when the Champions League begins before walking away with his father amid the crowd on Bells Road.