The heat was sweltering on a bright summer afternoon in Chennai. It was the second week of March, and still more than two weeks were left before the start of the 11th edition of the cash rich IPL. The players were just starting out practice, but more than 12000 fans had braved the Chennai heat and had turned up in the stands to watch CSK practice.
This was not even a domestic match, but just a practice session. And then, when a certain MS Dhoni walked onto the field, the crowd went delirious. The fans were shouting out the name of their favourite hero in unison, and the atmosphere was thunderous.
And, when Saravanan, an ardent fan of Mahi, was asked about it and whether he felt that this much of love can be poured on the players, this is what he had to say.
“Definitely. I don’t expect anything for what I do. All this is only for happiness. When fans call me Dhoni when I walk on the street with the paint on, I feel happy … I’m Chennai’s Dhoni. He’s Ranchi’s Dhoni.”Saravanan, an ardent MS Dhoni fan
For over a decade now, MS Dhoni has been Chennai’s favourite son. The legendary cricketer has become the symbol of the CSK franchise, and has established an intimate and personal connection with the people from Chennai.
Perhaps only the connection between Sachin Tendulkar and his fans has been as intimate, as personal and as unconditional as the bond between MS Dhoni and Chennai.
The enigma that Dhoni is
There is a reason why the average fan is behind Dhoni all the time. For, with someone like Dhoni, it is impossible to decipher what the great man will do next. On the face of it, the move that he might be making will make no sense upfront, but when the result comes, it will seem like a masterpiece.
MS Dhoni has made a career out of surprising fans, and his tactical moves as the skipper of Chennai has allowed the side to emerge as one of the most successful sides in IPL history, and led them to as many as 3 IPL titles, all under Dhoni’s leadership.
Also, the calmness that Dhoni brings to the crease, especially in a run chase is of vital importance to the side. The way he ripped apart Irfan Pathan in the final over when Chennai needed 16 runs to win, and single handedly took his side past the finish line is a memory that will stay on for posterity.
MS Dhoni has scored over 4000 runs for his side in IPL cricket, and has been a vital cog of the CSK batting outfit.
Fans stood by the team
The true loyalty of a fan base comes when the chips are down. For, those are the times when an individual or a side needs a shoulder to lean upon.
When the IPL matches were moved out of Chennai in the year 2018, the fans from the side booked tickets, reserved special trains and traveled the length and breadth of the country to support their side.
Also, even when the side was banned for two years from the IPL, the fans were always behind the team.
Du Plessis and Bravo on MS Dhoni
Faf Du Plessis has been an integral part of the CSK outfit. When asked about MS Dhoni’s influence on the side, this is what the South African had to say.
“If MS walks off the field. Chennai is a different team. He has got such strong leadership in the group. When MS is not there, the team is not the same. He leaves a massive hole when he is not in the team.”
Also, West Indian all rounder Dwayne Bravo is effusive in praise of Dhoni. And, this is what Bravo had to say.
“I’ve asked myself many times, why someone like MS has so much faith in me. My own board and selectors don’t have the same faith. But Mahi respects my talent and the way I play the game. That means a lot to me because this is arguably the greatest captain in the world and he has so much faith.”
The undisputed Thala of CSK
Dhoni is not from the city of Chennai. He does not even know the language that the locals speak there. But then, Chennai has loved Mahi as if he is the son of the soil, as if he is their own.
Even Dhoni has been quite moved by the love that he has received from the fans there. This is what Dhoni said in the year 2018 about his bond with Chennai.
“I have a personal connect with CSK. I have been part of them right from the first year. Last two years, they have not been part of the IPL, but our fan following has grown up. People have belief in the brand.”MS Dhoni
Indian sport has not seen a bond that has been as intimate and as strong as the bond between Dhoni and Chennai. And, this is a bond that will stand the test of time, and this is a bond that shows that the intimacy and love between a fan and a player will break geographical barriers.
MS Dhoni will continue to turn out for his side in the future. And, when he walks out at Chepauk when the IPL begins after the Coronavirus pandemic sometime in the future, get ready to experience the ear deafening roar that accompanies Dhoni’s walk to the crease.
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