Strategic timeout for snakes

When all roads lead to MAC stadium and to police pickets

Chennai, Apr 11: There was as much drama (if not more) outside the MA Chidambaram Stadium as much as there was inside it when Chennai Superkings and Kolkata Knightriders squared up against each other in a, what sports reporters as mandated by Press Council rules have to describe as,  high-voltage clash yesterday.

Our reporter, who was at the scene, gives his unique, irresponsible, skewed view of all the action (mostly outside).

The time is around 4 p.m., there is considerable excitement in the air, and all roads, as they say, lead to MA Chidambaram stadium but actually ends up in some kind of police picket. The police are fully prepared to stop the protesters who have threatened to stop the traffic on the arterial Anna Salai.

If they manage to choke the traffic on Anna Salai, it will be quite an achievement. Because the traffic on Anna Salai is always already choked. Soon the protesters start to arrive, a bit later than their scheduled protest time because — ahem! — they were held up by the city’s notorious traffic elsewhere.

They start shouting slogans. Against the State government. Against the Central government. Against — why not? — the Chennai Super Kings. Because it is well-known that the reason for the Centre dilly-dallying over the Cauvery Management Board is N Srinivasan.

Supporters of fringe political outfits, who can’t spell their party’s names correctly in their own office stationery, start attacking fans who were headed for the stadium in CSK’s yellow colours. The hashtags had it #Yellove, but here it was more like #YellLow.

The police try to control them, but the protesters hit the cops too. Some of the media camera persons are mighty disappointed. Is it because the law-enforcers were targeted? No, because the camera persons couldn’t get proper visuals of the attacks. Modern media and its priorities!

Soon enough, poet Vairamuthu, with freshly powdered face and his standard well-ironed white kurta-pyjama, looking every bit like someone heading for a wedding reception, arrives for the protest, where every body else is looking like runners after completing desert marathon. After making his presence felt among the media personnel, Vairamuthu vanishes.

And then a team of directors from Kollywood lands up. Bharathiraja, Ameer, V Sekar, Gauthaman, all well known directors well known for having had no films to their credit in the last two years or so, are arrested and taken in a bus. But the directors achieve what they came for: A mention of their names in the TV news scroll.

Even as the protests begin to lose steam, the focus shifts to the stadium where there is even more excitement, thanks to the non-arrival of the two umpires on time. Will this tie be the first one in history that will be held just through DRS? (How do you signal strategic timeout via DRS?)

No need for such technical questions, as the umpires  arrive late (in a show of solidarity to the protesters, they too were caught in the traffic) and get down to the toss. CSK skipper M S Dhoni wins the toss and chooses to bowl first. Does he believe the pitch will offer something for the bowlers at the start? No idea, but the CSK bowlers offer plenty for the batsmen right from the start, as KKR gets going with a bang.

Coming after the  two-year-ban, the Chennai Superkings team is playing its first home match, and naturally the atmosphere at the Chepauk stadium is rife with, well, humidity. Just because CSK is back, the atmosphere is not going to turn cool. It never will in Chennai.

As the KKR batsmen get stuck into the CSK bowlers, there is some tension in the stadium as slippers are slipped in from the stands against two of the biggest villains in the Cauvery imbroglio between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka — Ravindra Jadeja and Faf du Plessis.

The KKR team is unflustered. For, back in Kolkata, at the Eden Gardens, they are used to crowds  burning the stands when the oppositions so much as scores a few boundaries on the trot. Compared to them, the Cauvery protesters may seem like from Salvation Army.

But even as the match is on, there is some unease in the air, as one of the protesting gangs has threatened to — this is Chennai, and we believe doing things with extra drama —  let loose snakes into the stadium. Imagine snakes in the stadium and players scampering around in panic.  But this being IPL, they will try to slap some sponsor sticker on the snakes.

Also, Imran Tahir — now going by the Kollywood kitschy name Paraskathi Express — anyway generally celebrates after taking a wicket by running around the stadium in delirium, as if he is chased by angry snakes. So the crowd is on tenterhooks. But no sign of snakes and also a wicket from Tahir.

Meanwhile, KKR boss Sharukh Khan arrives in the stadium, clad in a black T-shirt, which as every one knows is a dangerous item, and banned at MA Chidambaram stadium. It is always on the banned item list here. It is not uncommon to see people who arrive at the stadium wearing black shirt/t-shirt to be sent away or allowed inside without the offending black colour dress. The now famous bare-bodied yellow-painted Dhoni fan probably ended up as one after his black T-shirt was confiscated at the entrance by the police.

At the interval, the CSK fans are crestfallen as Andre Russell keeps hitting sixers at will.  But in the end, thanks to lusty hitting from Sam Billings and Shane Watson, CSK yet again, metaphorically speaking, gets out of jail.

Alas, that was not the case with the protesters.