- Shamser Khalid
Fans Travel Far to Watch MS Dhoni's 'Last Match'
Chennai Super Kings' loyal fans flooded the MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai on Tuesday, but there was a hint of sadness on their painted faces. It could have been the last time they witness their beloved 'Thala' donning the yellow jersey as CSK's captain – in Chennai.
An impressive crowd of 40,000 fans gathered for the qualifier match between Chennai Super Kings and Gujarat Titans. Nearly every fan proudly displayed some form of Dhoni signage, whether it was his iconic Number 7 jersey or other merchandise inspired by his brand image.
Dhoni's bond with his fans in Chennai transcends age groups, and it particularly resonates with the aspiring youth, who admitted they came to the stadium just to catch a glimpse of him.
As fans approached the stadium's entry paths, they chanted Dhoni's name incessantly, waving flags and blowing yellow whistles. The atmosphere was electric with anticipation and excitement.
"I have bunked classes, and I have an exam tomorrow, but I still came to see my 'thala.' I'm lucky to have managed to get a ticket for this qualifier match. I can't miss Thala live at the stadium," said 19-year-old Sreekanth, displaying his undying devotion.
Inside the stadium, the continuous chorus of "Chennai Super Kings' Whistle Podu" echoed through the stands. Children as young as 4 or 5 years old rushed through the entry gates, eager to secure their seats before the match began.
The occasional toddler in a yellow jersey, bewildered by the vibrant and boisterous surroundings, served as a testament to the deep-rooted connection between CSK, Dhoni, and the people of Chennai. One couple even brought their 2.5-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter to the game, both dressed in CSK jerseys and happily blowing their whistles.
"I came for Dhoni," said a schoolkid, accompanied by his father. "This might be my only opportunity to see Dhoni play next season. I didn't want to miss out on this season's suspense," he added, emphasizing the significance of the moment.
As expected, Dhoni's pan-national appeal attracted fans from northern and neighboring states, including Andhra Pradesh. "I am from Chandigarh. I traveled all the way for Dhoni. I will also travel to watch Thala in the finals because I'm confident CSK will clinch the IPL cup for the fifth time," expressed Ram Gopal. Not to be outdone, another fan chimed in, "I am from Hyderabad. I have traveled 1000 kilometers to witness the match live at Chepauk."
While it was an exhilarating experience for the fans, there was an underlying bittersweet sentiment, fueled by speculations that this could potentially be the last time they witness Dhoni's on-field magic in Chennai. Nevertheless, fans hold onto the hope that Dhoni will continue playing in the upcoming seasons.
"I'm sure he will play next time as well. Despite being 41 years old, he is still the best player. My favorite moment this season was the first match when he hit two sixes and got out. I love the way he finishes a game," shared a college student, displaying unwavering faith in Dhoni's abilities.
At the time, none knew of Dhoni's plans for the IPL. However, what can be assumed to last forever is the immense love and adoration he has received from the people of Chennai, a love that he has expressed his gratitude for countless times and will cherish for a lifetime.