Ever since the launch of the Indian Premier League, chairman Lalit Modi has compared it to football leagues across the globe.
And if a Mumbai Indian games at the Brabourne Stadium is any indication, you'll figure that Modi & Co have got one basic requirement for a franchise-based league right --- the fan following.
Whenever Lasith Malinga got back to his mark to start his run-up over the last fortnight, the Brabourne stands have chanted "Malinga, Malinga!" The chants were even louder on Tuesday as the Lankan wizard came up with his best spell in the tournament to help MI restrict Kings XI Punjab to 163.
The crowd made their loyalty clear when Yuvraj Singh walked to the crease. Had Yuvraj been wearing blue colours - whether that of MI or the original Men in Blue --- he would have been vociferously greeted.
Instead, the Mohali mauler was greeted with the rants of “Yuvi's XXXs, Yuv's XXXs”. You can't be sure whether it was the pressure of the crowd or not but the Prince's onslaught lasted just three balls.
And then, the crowd got into the act yet again after Piyush Chawla made his way to the fence near the North Stand after completing his first over. The leggie, who had helped KXIP post a respectable total, had dismissed Sachin Tendulkar in his first over. He was then involved in a collision with Kieron Pollard that resulted in the West Indian tumbling to the ground.
So as Chawla trudged back towards the boundary line, he was welcomed with the slogan: "Ek do, ek do, Chawla ko fek do!" If you were an MI supporter, it was heady stuff.
But had it not been for the advantage of the '12th man', the clash between the table toppers and those scraping the bottom of the barrel wouldn't have been as intriguing as it turned out to be. Had the same match been played in Mohali, MI would have found it very difficult to scrape through. But backed by this crowd, and Saurabh Tiwary's late surge, they hung on. For the record, MI won by four wickets with three balls to spare.