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In defence of CSK and MSD

Zakka Jacob | Updated: July 20, 2015, 10:54 AM IST

I happened to swing by Chennai, the city I grew up in, last week. Absolutely coincidentally it happened to be the day after Chennai’s very own cricket team the SuperKings were suspended by the Supreme Court appointed Lodha panel from further participation in the IPL for the next couple of years. Although I spent less than a day in my hometown, I did get to speak to a cross section of people. Old friends from engineering college who now work like millions of others in IT companies, journalist friends, former cricketers and some renowned Chennai businessmen. And I heard one thing over and over and over again. Please don’t do this to our team. A disparate group of people but the chorus was the same: what Meiyappan did was grossly wrong, punish him and India Cements all you want, send them to jail if need be, but don’t short-change our beloved cricket team.

No other team has such a dedicated fan following as the Chennai Superkings. This is not to suggest that the fans of other teams like Mumbai or Kolkata are less loyal. But CSK are the only team whose core has largely remained intact right from the very beginning. And fans relate to that. In this world of continuous change, some amount of constancy is welcome. And in hallowed world of Chennai conversations, CSK has been a constant for the last eight years. It’s not just Captain Dhoni who has been a talismanic presence for the men in yellow. You walk out of Chepauk (we Chennaiites call the MA Chidambaram Stadium just Chepauk) and the first thing that you notice is the huge board of Dhoni in his trademark CSK yellows promoting a brand. No player has been shown so much love outside of his hometown or home province as the Tamil people have showered on Dhoni. And he has responded in equal measure, calling Chennai his second home. Dhoni has confessed in numerous interviews that after Ranchi, the city he likes spending the most amount of time is Chennai. Not Kolkata, where he spent his formative years in cricket, but Chennai.

Hero-worship has always been an integral part of Tamil culture. The tales of filmstars like MGR, Jayalalithaa and Rajinikanth and their cult following is well documented. With Chennai’s sportspersons it was slightly less dramatic but no less adulatory. Chennai has always produced a steady stream of sportsmen over the years who have all received unqualified amounts of love and respect. Viswanathan Anand is the most famous of them. But chess is not a sport that kicks up mass hysteria. The Krishnans, Ramanathan and son Ramesh, and then the Amritraj brothers, Vijay and Anand put Chennai on the tennis map long before any city even took tennis seriously. Even in the list of illustrious cricketers, from Kris Srikkanth to WV Raman to Sadagoppan Ramesh and now Ravichandran Ashwin, the Chennai factory just kept churning out good talent from time to time. But no cricketer or sportsperson has got the kind of special love that MS Dhoni has received. By the time he hangs up his boots, there will be similar scenes in Chennai as was witnessed during MGR’s funeral or during Jayalalithaa’s court verdict. I'm betting some effigies will burn and some buses will be destroyed.

The moot point is: is it fair to hold an entire team, an entire city guilty for the actions of a few rotten apples? Gurunath Meiyappan maybe a crook and he deserves to be punished for the same. But should we penalise people like young Manikandan who is a pizza delivery boy who saves up money for months just to catch an IPL game at Chepauk. I am not passing judgement; I am merely putting out a proposition. May the wise men who run Indian cricket ponder over and come up with a fair solution.
First Published: July 20, 2015, 10:54 AM IST

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