It is warm in Chennai during this time of the year. Nothing unusual --- in this part of the country, the heat and oppressive humidity are quite legendary. But over the past six years, a certain primary colour has played no small part in sending the April-May temperatures soaring.Is it a tribute to Vincent Van Gogh and Wes Anderson? Unlikely. Perhaps, it is meant to induce cowardice in their competitors. But even when one is headed to the southern metropolitan, there is no escaping the colour of Chennai Super Kings. From boarding passes to cabin baggage tags, it is all yellow. Sub-consciously, it takes a toll --- one, for instance, ends up ordering lemon chicken and pineapple juice. Inside Chepauk, it's overwhelming. So, be it the seats of those stands that remained unoccupied last season due to the cricket association's issues with the local corporation, or the papered walls of the pillars that hold the others in place, all one takes in is the symbolism.
Surprising, then, that their home ground has not exactly been impregnable. Sure, it acquired a reputation of being a fortress, but that was two years ago, when the Super Kings won their second title. Barring that one season when they won all eight at home (including the summit clash), their home record --- 18 wins to 16 losses, including the CLT20 --- does not exactly inspire confidence.
Take the current edition, for instance --- among the many discernible trends has been the home record of the five teams who have, by now, established themselves as serious contenders. Four of them are yet to slip up in their own backyard; the only exceptions are the Super Kings. Sure, they have already opened up a sizeable lead at the head of the points table. But their only two losses have both come at home.
Contrast this with the others vying for playoff berths. Powered by a Gayle and draped in red and gold --- colours of victory, as well as Karnataka's state flag --- Bangalore have risen to the royal challenge, Hyderabad's sun has, ever since the reinvention, only been rising on the back of their ability to win low-scorers, and both Mumbai Indians and Rajasthan Royals have made sure that there have not been any hometown blues.
Yet, the Super Kings remain the team to beat. The only team to make it beyond the league phase in each of the six editions, they have now won six games on the trot, a first for the league's most consistent performers. Against middle-of-the-table Kings XI Punjab on Thursday, they are seeking an unprecedented seventh.
Asked about their hosts, coach Darren Lehmann said, "They've pretty much had the same players for six years now. The continuity of their side, I think that's their advantage."
Yes, it's the players who matter. And if MS Dhoni & Co keep performing the way they have, that the last two (or three) matches will not be amid a sea of yellow will not stop Chennai from becoming kings a third time.