Posted by: nestaquin | April 24, 2008

Hot & Bothered in Chennai

Less than a week ago, it was incomprehensible, even unimaginable to the most fertile and unstable of minds, that belligerent Queenslander Matthew Hayden could receive as warm a reception from a pulsating Indian stadium as he did last evening.

Upon being run out by a dart-like Harbarjan throw from cover in the last over of the innings the crowd rose from their seats and gave the hot and weary 37 year old a rousing standing ovation all the way to the comfort of the air-conditioned home dressing room.

The same crowd sang Michael Hussey’s name passionately and in unison during his brief stay at the crease and if this is indeed the future of cricket, as some have suggested, then the game will be better for the breaking of national stereotypes and foolish rivalries.

Hatred should never be allowed to fester and the locals in Chennai displayed to the cricketing world their cultural maturity and respect, and for that, all Indians should be walking with their heads high as they go about their business today.

The match was a cracking contest that ebbed and surged like the tide at the nearby Kuvam River during a monsoon. Hayden who set up the Chennai first innings of 208/5 with 81 from 46 balls seemed out of sorts and despite the flattering strike rate he rarely timed the leather to his liking.

For the second match in succession 21 year old Suresh Raina batted responsively, bravely and intelligently and his century partnership with Hayden was a dazzling display of long hitting, unorthodox strokeplay and wristy placement. When he unselfishly fell to an athletic Dwayne Bravo outfield catch the score was 143/3 with five full overs remaining thus setting the perfect stage for Dhoni and Hayden to finish.

209 seemed a tall order for Mumbai without their captain and spiritual leader Sachin Tendulkar and for three-quarters of their innings the Chennai total seemed beyond them as the locals, creatively led by Dhoni, took wickets at regular intervals despite a wonderfully adventurous cameo from Robin Uthappa.

Chennai fielded brilliantly with hardly a misfield or dropped half-chance and their throwing and backing-up of the fielders with ball in hand was tight, professional and organised and easily the best display from a fielding unit so far in the inaugural IPL. Obviously, coach Kepler Wessels is doing something right in what must be a difficult job. There is no textbook for assembling a team from all corners and getting them collectively to play at potential in less than a week yet the former South African skipper has done just that.

At the fall of the sixth wicket the game looked over, with Mumbai still needing 68 from only four and half overs when Harbarjan Singh took guard and keenly surveyed the field. A man with absolutely no conception of defeat in the heat of battle, Harbarjan took to the bowling with relish and in doing so gave his less experienced partner Abhishek Nayar the confidence to do the same.

In three incredible overs they smashed 40 and still when the last over began 19 was needed for victory. Nayar showed his daring and emerging class smashing the first two balls from Joginder Sharma through mid-wicket and then confidently over extra cover for boundaries. With eleven needed from four deliveries the crowd and the benches were on their feet and on sofas throughout the cricketing world bums were on the edge of seats.

When Joginder over-stepped with his next delivery the anguish of the home crowd was palpable as heads were buried in hands and a silence fell over the MA Chidambaram Stadium for the first time since expectant spectators took their seats four hours previous. Now with only nine need from four with a free-hit in hand Mumbai for the first time in the match were in command and an improbable win seemed likely.

Joginder is not labelled a last over specialist superciliously and for not the first time he rewarded Dhoni’s faith in him by closing out the game with a hat-trick of perfectly directed yorkers. The stadium erupted in waves of joy as the last now meaningless ball was bowled and the celebrations both on and off the field were still ruminating when Matthew Hayden sheepishly accepted his new Honda motorcycle as Man of the Match.

At the same presentation MS Dhoni said, “Something needs to be done about the dew. We thought 208 was a very decent score though. The franchises should, hopefully, use some chemicals to control the dew. You can’t control the toss but you can do something about the dew”.

Somebody should pull MS Dhoni aside and explain to him that in the 21st century we now know that deliberately manipulating the environment by chemical means is dangerous, unsustainable and stunningly selfish. I would expect that if a scientifically untested method was used then the Australians would be on the first plane out and their managers would sue for presenting their clients with a dangerous work environment.

Additionally, I’d expect a more reflective attitude in a country like India where the worst chemical disaster in the history of mankind occurred at Bhopal in 1984.

It was a great game of cricket, the players gave their all in oppressive heat, the crowd was magnanimous and magnificent and we discovered that MS Dhoni is as thick as the air on a hot, humid and still day in Chennai. What a night!


  1. For those with eyes to see, there’s so much going on in these matches as your report shows. Papers in the UK aren’t bothering to report these matches, though there’s unlimited space for whinging about the impact of T20 on “proper” cricket.

    English snobbery about the IPL is a disgrace.

  2. Yes,even though ppl were after poor haydos’ head for quite sometime all seemed forgotten. An educated crowd, possessing good knowledge about the nuances of the great game, they seem to move with the match very professionally. Being one among the crowd in the first ever t20 match at the chepauk was like a dream come true.

    After a dreary test match against the South African (apart from sehwag’s 300) this seemed a good apology for the bad show last time round.

    PS:and nestaquin the Kuvam River never ebbs or surges. A river just happens to serve as a very good dustbin for most people. The river itself looks as dark as oil.

  3. Thanks Vishnu. I am absolutely thrilled to have a member of last night’s crowd commenting at 99.94.

    I am aware of the state of the river but I was too polite to mention the environmental concerns. I’m also aware that it rarely runs to the sea so I invented the monsoon to push it along.

  4. The grass is always green on the other side of the fence.Till the IPL was setup i was always envious of those in Australia.Australia have got i felt by far the most stable and competitive structure of domestic cricket in the world(almost parallel by england). The stadiums,the atmosphere and most importantly pitches are always sportive and produce pretty good contests.I always make the pilgrimage to the chepauk even if its a domestic game,but the last 3 years i seem less interested in the ranji or the challenger series and with the entry of star cricket a channel that telecasts counties of england and Australia, i find it more entertaining to see those on TV than witnessing the county matches at the MAC A or guru nanak college.

    But the IPL suddenly has brought the whole of chennai alive. With its after office timing it seems to attract crowds like a shah rukh khan’s film.I have never seen such big crowds in the last 5-6 years maybe except india australia test matches but even that crowd looks so such a small number when compared to the one i saw are made to sitt according to ur seat number thats so rare at the chepauk.

    possessing a season ticket which most chennai residents would kill for, my plans are to go for most of the matches if not all and i hope these matches live up to the IPL quality that has been played in other cities.

  5. I must commend Nesta for referring to the dangers of irresponsible use of chemicals in India.

    Use of hazardous chemicals have increased teremendously with the economic boom, leading to widespread incidence of occupational health diseases, particularly in Gujarat and Maharashtra. In spite of comprehensive documentation by health activists, these cases are rarely reported by media which has been hoplessly seduced by the glitz of economic wealth.

    Ironically, Government of India and large sections of the elite consider any demand for compliance with environmental norms as imperialist cospiracy and impediment to econimc growth. It somehow escapes them that reckless imitation of the ecologically destructive industrial practices of west by a nation of one billion people will result in complete collapse of our environment and human health.

  6. It sure is the future :-)

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