The constant buzz of Vuvuzelas at the Wankhede. Chants of CSK and Dhoni at Chepauk. Aar-See-Bee and Kohliiiii, Kohli in Chinnaswamy. The full houses at Feroz Shah Kotla irrespective of Delhi Capitals' performances. The underrated fan army of Sunrisers Hyderabad. The Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab faithfuls, the Eden Gardens experience. None of this will be a part of IPL 2020 thanks to COVID-19.
The Emirates Cricket Board had said they'd like to host fans in stadiums in UAE during the IPL, if the government and BCCI approves. However, considering the increasing cases in the country - and in the tournament - it's highly unlikely that fans will be a part of the direct action.
That, though, is not stopping the loyalists from voicing out their support for their favourite clubs. From watching the matches 'together' in Zoom calls to planning tributes to COVID warriors, the fan clubs are doing all they can to keep fans engaged, this time in the online world. Here's a look at what's in store for a few of the franchises.
CSK's Whistle Podu Army
CSK's fans are used to their plans being spoiled. Their home matches have often been shifted out of Chennai for various reasons. Most recently in 2018, when their matches were shifted to Pune, the franchise even arranged a 'whistle podu express' train to give their fans a chance to watch the action.
So what's in store this season?
"If the IPL was shifted to UAE for some other reason other than the pandemic, we would have flown in a full plane," says Prabhu Damodaran of the Whistle Podu Army. "Now even if fans are allowed, with the quarantine rules and all that, it's difficult. But maybe towards the knockouts, why not?
"We have a very very strong fan base in the middle east. People are already standing outside the team hotel and clicking pictures, of course from a distance. If allowed, it will be CSK fans who will be at the stadiums.
"Now things are not in our control so it's all about staying home and celebrating with families.
"Mixed feelings because we can't see the yellow jerseys all around the ground. But on the positive, we are all going to enjoy with families this year. From grandparents to small children, everyone is a Dhoni fan and will be cheering for yellow. The fact that IPL is happening is a happiness for people in these tough times."
Prabhu, who is happy that Dhoni is now 'exclusively Chennai's', explains that the fan club is already in the process of charting out plans. It includes handing out 'CSK masks', staying true to times!
"Due to the pandemic, we haven't connected with people. Now we're all getting together, we're talking on our WhatsApp groups, having Zoom calls about the tournament. It's slowly setting in.
"As a fan club, we have a couple of initiatives. Normally we have a lot of meet-ups, but we might not be able to do that this time. Maybe in a smaller group we could. We'd be taking our initiatives online and making a lot of buzz. We'll have a Zoom call while watching CSK matches.
"Normally we have annual membership programmes. We have T-Shirts and membership cards, we have some exclusive events in our meet ups. The kits have started going and fans have started receiving it. Now we're also giving masks with the kit! We can't paint the stadiums yellow, but we'll paint our homes yellow."
The Orange Army Ready to Ride on David Warner Tik Tok Wave
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Sunrisers' fans are among the most underrated in the IPL. The fan base of Mumbai Indians and Chennai Super Kings are often in the limelight but Hyderabad's 'Orange Army' is equally loyal.
Yashwant AS, part of the Orange Army fan club, explains their plans.
"We fans have missed connecting with friends due to the pandemic, and the IPL has given a chance to reconnect. As a fan club, we'll do various activities. We'll be organising quiz competitions, puzzles contests, predictions and polls that will keep our followers engaged," he says.
"We'll be organising a fan-video or quiz contest. We will be identifying the 'fan of the week' and will be given prizes. SRH will have a huge fan support in UAE because of Rashid Khan and Mohammad Nabi especially, apart from David Warner and Kane Williamson who are loved all over."
While the likes of MS Dhoni and Virat Kohli have been huge superstars for their respective franchises, Hyderabad have their own in David Warner. And Warner's latest avatar as a Tik Tok celebrity is only adding to his fan base.
"David Warner has become even more famous now with his Tik Tok videos. According to us he is the best ever player in IPL," says Yashwant.
"He has become a superstar because of Tik Tok! Andhra fans and Hyderabad fans love his videos. The way he acts, the way he dances... everyone is so impressed. And his family too - the children have also taken part in the videos. It's like a family picture.
"The videos have become a trend in Hyderabad. The fans love all the videos, people keep his videos as their WhatsApp status. My favourite is the Buttabomma, he has done exactly like Allu Arjun!"
New Decade, New RCB
Sai Krishna, a main member of Namma Team RCB, the official fan group of RCB, says it's easy to be fans of teams that win tournaments. Although RCB haven't won the trophy yet, their fans have remained loyal through the years even as they hope for an on-field turnaround.
"Although we've not won, we bound by the team we have and the city we love. Even when Brendon McCullum hit us around the park in 2008, it didn't stop us from coming in day in and day out to each and every match. Even when there has been rain, we've had full houses even late in the night. It's been a rollercoaster ride to follow RCB, but we'll keep on going. We know we will win the title some day, but we'll always be there to support however long it takes," he says.
"Some people support teams because they have won trophies. For us, it's all about the team we love and not just the results.
"We used to even travel for away games, especially to venues like Chennai or Hyderabad. We started the culture of making huge banners like in football, in IPL. It's really disheartening to not witness matches this year. But the IPL is something we really needed."
Namma Team RCB too will have special plans during the IPL, which include thanking the COVID-19 warriors.
"This time we'll be having digital campaigns. We'd be having podcasts and stuff on social media. This season we'll plan some ways to thank the COVID warriors. The healthcare workers and all the warriors have helped us a lot, and we'll use this opportunity to thank them. We'll be giving them a tribute, put up posters and videos.
"This is not the RCB we have seen in the past year, it's a completely new structure. It's a New Decade, New RCB."