Few teams have been as strong at home as Chennai Super Kings. Mumbai has that cauldron-like atmosphere and Rajasthan Royals made Jaipur almost impregnable. CSK’s yellow fever however has been the most infectious and memorable synthesis of cricketers and fans in the IPL’s six-year history.
But not until May 18 will CSK play their first of two home matches in Chennai. The other two home matches have been slotted in Ranchi, which used to fall within Kolkata Knight Riders’ catchment area till last season when they played two games here. It makes for the most surprising switch of home venues.
Elections in Tamil Nadu were over on April 24, so providing security shouldn’t have been a problem for the state government. Yet, CSK have settled for Ranchi. The exact reason for this change is unknown.
Coach Stephen Fleming indicated the team’s past performance in Ranchi makes it a wise choice as a home venue. “We had a great experience here (last year) with the Champions League where we didn’t lose a game. So we are pretty familiar with the surroundings. We are happy to be back and hopefully our form in this ground continues,” said Fleming, on the eve of their match against KKR.
The most obvious reason though is MS Dhoni. When CSK are here, Dhoni usually goes out of his way to dish out great hospitality, including dinners at his home and long drives for team mates around Ranchi. “Obviously the skipper has very strong connections with this city and we really enjoyed here last time,” said Fleming.
Fan connect shouldn’t be a problem, the former Kiwi skipper feels. “We are very lucky with the fan support we have and I don’t think it matters where we play as we always get a large contingent of yellow shirts. We have played beautifully in Chennai, but the fact is we are not there and we have done well here. So, that’s two good grounds for us,” he said.
Those familiar yellow billboards have been put up at the JSCA complex stadium with Dhoni’s boys and ‘whistle podu’ embossed on them. People in Ranchi might not know what slogan means but as long as their ‘Mahi bhai’ is on the field, they know who to support.