The cricket fans in Chennai had waited for two years now to watch their ‘Thalaiva’ MS Dhoni live at the Chepauk Stadium. Despite the prices of the tickets were hitting the roof; minimum being Rs. 1200, the first ODI between India and Australia went house full. Dhoni, who hails from Ranchi, has been adopted by Chennai. The connection developed when the former captain was picked by N. Srinivasan’s Chennai Super Kings (CSK). Dhoni, who led the side in all the eight seasons before its suspension, won them two IPL titles and a Champions Trophy. Even though Chepauk had not witnessed Dhoni in the last two years, the connection, loyalty and love remained intact.

Prior to the commencement of the match, thousands of fans packed the Wallajah Road, Victoria Hostel Road and Bells Road and the jersey bearing the names of Virat Kohli and especially Dhoni were sold like candies. Chennaites are distributed across the country and obviously, it was not possible for everyone to fly to the city to watch their local hero live at Chepauk. The ones who were at home, stuck to the television, stormed the social media with their enthusiasm about Dhoni in Chennai.

What Tendulkar is to the Wankhede Stadium, Ganguly is to the Eden Gardens; Dhoni is that for Chepauk. The learned Chennai crowd has taken to Dhoni as their own. The man is aware of his importance in the city, a city which originally is not his. But the way he is accepted by the people there melts his heart and he takes it as a responsibility, every time he is there in the blue colours, to return the favour in his style. A style that drives Chepauk crazy and glitter in pride.

Apart from his heroics with the CSK, the 36-year-old has always kept the runs flooding at the famous venue in the Indian jersey. He averages over 100 in ODIs played at Chepauk and in Tests, he averages an incredible 80.75.

On Sunday, India won the toss and Kohli opted to bat; which meant, in a few hours, the restless crowd in the stands would finally reunite with the ‘son of their soil.’ However, in the next few minutes, an excited Chepauk, went dead silent as Australian fast bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile ran through the Indian top-order. When India lost its third wicket, Manish Pandey, the air in the stadium filled with anxiety. But, suddenly, the crowd realised what the third wicket actually meant. The chants touched a new level of decibel; the anxiety turned into pure joy; then the new batsman walked into the field and once again the mood in the stadium altered.

It was Kedar Jhadav. Not Dhoni.

Kedar might be among the few cricketer to have been booed by his own countrymen. But what was his fault? He was the day’s No. 5 man in the playing XI, ahead of Chennai’s Dhoni – this was his fault. That moment spoke volumes about what Dhoni meant to Chennai, the city that loved him the most, arguably.

However, Chennia crowd being knowledegble, the next hour, they chose to see the betterment of the team and cheered for Rohit Sharma and Kedar, while they also longed for the moment when Dhoni came out with the bat.

The moment finally arrived.

Rohit was dismissed at the score of 64 for 4. There was complete silence once again. There was not only tension about India’s situation but also the hidden fear that they might watch Hardik Pandya walk in at No. 6.

However, the wait had ended. The man was welcomed with loud chants of “MSD,” “Dhoni,” “CSK,” through the stadium. Three main stands were empty, due to a standoff with local authorities but it had no effect as fans. The standing fans were enough to shake Chepauk with their booming voices. Dhoni went off the mark with a brace right on the first delivery he faced and there resumed the love affair between Chennai and Dhoni.

Dhoni, slowly, began the damage control. He not only pulled India out of the trouble but also allowed Hardik Pandya to go blazing ruthlessly against the Australians. The two shared a 118-run stand for the sixth wicket. It was Hardik, who took the charge and Dhoni, being as cool, calm and smart as always, kept rotating the strike. Dhoni also reached a century of international fifties and the 100th fifty was special, because, Chepauk.

Yesterday was something which people call, “like good old times.” As always, the team bus stopped in front of the stadium and Dhoni once again walked into the special place called Chepauk, midst the loud cheers. His stay at the crease for 88 balls, where he notched up crucial 79 runs, ensuring a competitive score for India, was thoroughly lived by the crowd in the stands. He was not the Indian captain, CSK skipper or even the Player of the Match, but his every step on the Chepauk soil was acknowledged with thunderous applause.


It was Dhoni’s home calling, in the true sense!

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