It was in the eighteenth century that the British took a large number of Tamils from India to work in the tea plantations of Sri Lanka. And a few of them went on their own as well.
One of the descendents of the emigrants has now returned to play cricket for Chennai. Before that he had married a girl from the metropolis.
It would be hard to say if Muttiah Muralitharan feels an affinity for the city he plays for, but the people of Chennai have adopted him as one of their own.
The legendary off-spinner has repaid the love with a string of economical performances that have helped his team into the semi-finals of the IPL.
In their all-important final league match against Hyderabad on Tuesday, Muralitharan came up with another of his miserly spells, giving away only 22 runs from his four overs and ensuring that his team did not chase a big total.
"Batsmen will be looking to attack all the time," the Sri Lankan had said before the tournament. "And this will only mean that bowlers will also have more chances to get them out."
More often than not, he has proved himself right.
"Twenty20 is all about containment of runs," the highest Test wicket-taker said. "If I give six to seven runs in an over, I would think I have done a good job."
To begin with he gave away only 33 runs in a high scoring game against Mohali. Though he went for 40 in the win against Mumbai, he returned an economical 12 for one against Kolkata.
Murali hunts like a fox. He bowls deceptively and smiles before going for the kill. But in the Indian summer of 2008, his bowling mantra has been to contain.
"I attack only in Tests," he said.
"In one-dayers and now T20, I look to dry up runs."
At 36, Muralitharan still shows the exhibits the exuberance of a teenager. Extremely fit and agile in the field, he displays a child-like glee when the captain tosses the ball to him.
Life has not been easy for Muralitharan. The son of a confectioner, he had humble beginnings.
Once successful, he was plagued with questions over his bowling action. But the wily spinner has put them behind and moved on with that famous smile as his constant companion. The children in Chennai love this ever-smiling character. They try to converse in Tamil thinking he is one of them with most hardly aware of history. But that hardly matters.