IPL fever is yet to grip fans in Chennai

Many consider Chennai cricket fans to be the most passionate and knowledgeable in the country.

After all, it were they who gave the Pakistan team a standing ovation on a lap of honour after the neighbours defeated India during the Asian Test Championship in 1999.

Even when it comes to the IPL, two-time winners Chennai Super Kings have enjoyed vociferous support, especially with the 'whistle podu' slogan they used to get the fans involved.

Chennai Super Kings' fans cheer their team during the IPL T20 match against Kolkata Knight Riders at the MAC stadium in Chennai on Tuesday

Chennai Super Kings' fans cheer their team during the IPL T20 match against Kolkata Knight Riders at the MAC stadium in Chennai on Tuesday

But this time around, the buzz around the IPL seems lower than before, even though officials insist that ticket sales have been excellent, with the opening game against the Mumbai Indians being sold out.

Throughout the city, there are few posters of the Super Kings to be seen, with the boundary wall of the MA Chidambaram Stadium looking like an odd yellow island in the middle of a pretty standard setting.

Anup Biswas, a Kolkatan who works as an IT professional in Chennai, feels it is a case of the novelty of the IPL wearing off.

'The second season wasn't played in India, and the first and third seasons were sort of like the honeymoon period for the IPL, when we all got swept away in the wave of glitz and glamour and paisa-vasool cricket. But how many times a year can you actually go to the ground and watch it?

Eventually you have to get back to your jobs. I don't think we fans have lost interest or are fatigued; it's simply that the novelty has worn off,' he told Mail Today outside the Chepauk Stadium, where he had come looking for tickets.

There are others, like Delhibased P Sai Bhardwaj, who do not agree with Biswas. Bhardwaj won a radio contest to attend Tuesday's opening ceremony, and is disappointed he will get to see only that, and not the opening match on Wednesday.

'I come from a family of cricket buffs and so while it is great that I will get to see someone like Amitabh Bachchan with my own eyes, I wish I could see the opening match too. But that's outside the ambit of the contest I won,' he told Mail Today.

For the true-blue Chennaiites, the IPL in general and the Super Kings in particular are still a big draw.

'We feel a real sense that the team belongs to us and we support them wholeheartedly. What the Indian team did abroad was depressing, but we like to see good cricket, and hopefully by striking form in the IPL, the members of the national team can put us on the winning path again,' said T Sarath, who runs a sports goods store near the stadium.

 

VALTHATY CONFIDENT

He burst into the limelight with his heroics in the 2011 Indian Premier League and Kings XI Punjab batsman Paul Valthaty said he will leave no stones unturned to turn on the heat on his rivals in IPL V. 'Naturally there will be more pressure this year.

'I have self belief and confidence that I will be able to handle that. In fact last year also when I scored a century against Chennai Super Kings in initial stage of the tournament, the expectations of my team and fans rose suddenly and I handled that pretty well,' he said.

'I have worked very hard this time. I am prepared well but I am not complecent at all. It is a new season and I have to start afresh.'

 

The floodlights at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata have a mood of their own. Over the years, they have regularly gone off during matches, putting the game and the local administration in a soup.

On Tuesday, the Delhi Daredevils and the Kolkata Knight Riders opted for afternoon and evening practice sessions.

As the Delhi session wound up Kolkata's began, it was dusk. But the floodlights didn't turn on and many players kept batting against pace bowlers in dangerously low light. But soon, both teams were forced to loiter around before the lights came on and the Knight Riders trained.

 

IRFAN THANKS ALMIGHTY

India all-rounder Irfan Pathan on Tuesday described his comeback to competitive cricket as a God's gift and said he wanted to utilise IPL's fifth season to get better and better.

'I take it as a second innings, as a God's gift, blessings. Not many people come back after injury.

I've been able to come back,' Pathan said.

'God has given me a second chance to fulfil my dream. Especially after my back injury, I needed to change my action. I was twisting a lot.

'Then the change has come and I hope I keep getting better with more matches. 'IPL is going to help me a lot. I will be playing a lot more matches. I will be bowling at crucial time.'

 


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