Chepauk ‘Fandom’: Quality time with folks, quality cricket for heart’s content

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Chepauk ‘Fandom’: Quality time with folks, quality cricket for heart’s content

S Sriram is an avid Rohit Sharma fan who always had his loyalties divided when Mumbai Indians played in those IPL matches against his favourite Chennai Super Kings.

But Saturday was special for Sriram as he was delirious with joy watching his hero play an audacious pull-shot off Ben Stokes. More special because Rohit was clad in whites and played a Test in Chennai for the first time.

“I am so happy to watch Rohit playing in whites in Chennai. He is such a lovely player to watch. Fans cheering ‘Rohit, Rohit’ gives me the goose bumps. Cricket without spectators was not such a great idea but the pandemic forced it,” the excitement in Sriram couldn’t possibly be missed.

“I waited for a whole day to get my (online) ticket redeemed but that does not matter as I am inside the stadium now watching the Test,” the childlike enthusiasm of an “achievement” was in fact infectious as one walked around the Cheapauk circumference trying to gauge the mood of the fans, who were queuing up at the gate.

COVID-19 is still a reality but a chance to watch their favourite sport live alwys adds a bit of zeal and positivity in people that everything will be okay.

Fans in Chennai are the most knowledgeable in the country. They know their sport and are not afraid to acknowledge good cricket even from opposition. Wasim Akram’s Pakistan never forgot the standing ovation and the chorus of claps after beating India in a thriller in 1999 which had left an injured Sachin Tendulkar teary-eyed in the dressing room.

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Chepauk ‘Fandom’: Quality time with folks, quality cricket for heart’s content

R Venkataraman, a 49-year-old Test cricket fan, has watched all the Test matches played here since the India-West Indies game in 1988 in which Narendra Hirwani took 16 wickets.

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“I am a big fan of Test cricket and have been coming to the Chepauk for all matches since 1987 and just enjoy the experience. The situation now is different and the pandemic has changed life to a great extent.

“It is good that sporting events have resumed and the best part is that crowds are allowed. But it is important that people obey the safety rules like wearing masks and frequent sanitising,” he added.

With the authorities allowing a 50 per cent crowd for the second India-England after the first was played behind closed doors, spectators began queuing up as early as 8 AM to enter the stadium.

“It is good that the BCCI and TNCA took a decision to allow spectators (50 per cent) for the second Test. The fans need to be responsible and follow the safety protocols because a small indiscretion can undo all the good work,” S Prabhu, an avid fan and a techie said.

The ‘I’, ‘J’ and ‘K’ stands were thrown open for spectators for the first time in a decade.

“It is good that the ‘I’, ‘J’ and ‘K’ stands have been reopened for fans and nice to see people sitting in the three (stands). Their closure due to some issue with the local authorities deprived M A Chidambaram stadium the opportunity of hosting several matches including the 2016 T20 World Cup. Now that they are open again, we can see a full stadium for the IPL hopefully,” he added.

Following norms to the ‘T’ at all hours will be tough feels Syed Mustafa while cheering his heroes.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling. Just to come out and enjoy the experience. If India wins, then its like icing on the cake. It will be slightly tough to follow the norms but people have to do so for their own good. Even a small mistake can cost big,” he added.

Yes, there was distance between the seats but they were all together in their love for cricket tightly knit.

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