No matter who wins the Sunday’s grand IPL11 finale, the glittering trophy — the symbol of supremacy in franchise cricket — will land at a Chennai address with the pincode 600028. The posh neighbourhood of Mayor Ramanathan Chettiar Nagar houses the headquarters of Sun Network and India Cements Ltd, the franchise owners of Sunrisers Hyderabad and Chennai Super Kings respectively. The Coromandel Towers at Karpagam Avenue is a stone’s throw away, across Santhome High Road, from Murasoli Maran Towers at Janaki Avenue. And the two Chennai corporate giants go back a long way as their bosses N. Srinivasan and Marans, too, share a close proximity.
However, Sunday’s showdown will decide who has the bragging rights for the next one year. The battle of the top guns has some interesting subplots such as clash of captains cool (M.S. Dhoni vs Kane Williamson), masterminds (Tom Moody vs Stephen Fleming) and the biggest of them all is Rashid Khan vs CSK batsmen. The wizard from Afghanistan is the best T20 spinner in the world and the reputation only enhanced when he singlehandedly plotted Kolkata Knight Riders’ downfall in the Qualifier 2. He sparkled with the willow, outfoxed batsmen with his craft and his lively presence saw him pouching two catches and effecting a run-out.
As Rashid became the toast of the IPL fans, demands were made on social media to grant the Afghan the Indian citizenship and the frenzy even evoked a witty response from Sushma Swaraj, minister of external affairs. “I have seen all the tweets. Citizenship matters are dealt with by Ministry of Home Affairs,” Swaraj tweeted. Afghan president Ashraf Ghani was quick to make it clear that the war-torn country will not give him away.
Chennai have beaten Sunrisers in all three matches including Qualifier 1 that they played this season, but CSK fans are well aware of the strong threat in the form of Rashid. “Difference between knowledge and wisdom is simple; knowledge is scoring runs in SRH pace attack and wisdom is saving wickets against SRH spin attack,” says B. Rohith Kumar, a CSK fan.
If title were to be decided on fan loyalty, Dhoni’s Super Kings would be the runaway victors. The die-hards say CSK is a “feeling” and they continue to support the team, no matter what. CSK’s brand grew multi-fold despite their two-year suspension for a team official’s alleged involvement in betting. The team had to shift their base out of Chennai due to protests in the name of Cauvery, but there was no stopping the fans from taking a chartered train to Pune.
CSK and IPL finals is a better love story than twilight and yellow, according to Aishwarya Jadhav, another fan. “Giving best wishes is just a formality because we know CSK are going to lift the cup again and we have immense faith in them,” she adds.
Former India cricketer Hemang Badani says Dhoni is a magician when it comes to IPL. “It will be the seventh final for Dhoni & Co. in nine years. No player has ever led his side to so many finals. It’s like a special magic that’s being weaved year after year. Something that’s not quite ordinary. CSK are the best side in the IPL history. Period,” Badani adds.
Having represented Super Kings, S. Badrinath knows a thing or two about the secret behind CSK’s success. “Individuals can win you matches, but only a team can win you championships. When one fails, the other pulls up; CSK are doing just that...and not the first time.”