The defending champions Chennai Super Kings (CSK) can be safely called one of the most successful and highly popular teams in the IPL. This can be largely attributed to their think-tank, which made vital decisions regarding the squad and support-staff management.
Since the start, CSK has been known for handling player-retentions with aplomb. The team has always emphasized on maintaining the nucleus of the squad intact. Apart from instilling a sense of familiarity and comfort, the practice of sustaining the core has aided the team in building and holding on to a concrete fan-base.
The Super Kings managed to impress the fans right from the onset by acquiring the 2007 World T20 winning captain, Mahendra Singh Dhoni. The towering presence of MS Dhoni, whom the knowledgeable Chennai crowd fondly call ‘thala’ (to mean boss), along with superstars Suresh Raina, Ravindra Jadeja and Dwayne Bravo, enabled CSK to enjoy pan-India fandom. The Facebook fandom map released post IPL 2015 showed more than 50% of the country colour-coded in yellow, thereby authenticating the strong presence of the team.
The journey of CSK through the years is proof that successful franchises are always well-accepted and adored. The Super Kings are three-time champions of IPL, two-time winners of the Champions League T20 and six-time winners of the fair play award. CSK is also the only side to have qualified for the play-offs in every single season that they have played in. Their exponential growth in popularity since inception hence comes as no surprise.
CSK’s high success-rate on the field and a constantly-mushrooming fan-base elevated them into a brand to watch out for. The news of the team’s suspension, therefore, came as a rude shock to the cricket fraternity. The two-year ban that was imposed tested the loyalty of the cricket-crazy Chennai fans.
Albeit being disappointed, CSK fans rallied behind the team throughout. The “Save CSK” campaign was organized to have the suspension revoked. Social-media platforms were filled with fans expressing their displeasure. Several fans joined together to trend “No CSK No IPL” and refused to watch the tournament until their team was reinstated. Furthermore, the Facebook page of Chennai Super Kings FC recorded a paramount rise in followers after the ban. Consequently, MS Dhoni would go on to say, “we were not here for two years, but our fan following has grown in the last two years”.
The suspension and the subsequent reactions were instrumental in strengthening the emotional bond between the fans and the team, nurturing them into a family. Post the two-year hiatus, the team was welcomed with open arms in 2018.
That ‘thala’ MS Dhoni presented an emotional side at the team’s welcome dinner, and spoke about the unconditional love and support of the fans is well-known. When a player of Dhoni’s stature said he missed being in yellow and that he could not think of not coming back to the team, the emotional thread that connects the CSK family was comprehensible.
In 2018, when the Super Kings invited fans to witness their practice session, a staggering 11,000 people turned up. This spectacle marked the return of the lions to their den. CSK’s first home-match was against the Kolkata Knight Riders. The game was a joyous home-coming for the Super Kings, and a sea of yellow erupted as their heroes stunned KKR with a ball to spare. The team was unfortunately forced to shift the remaining home matches from Chennai to Pune.
Nothing symbolized the emotional bond the team and the fans shared more than the “Whistle podu express”, a train that ferried the ‘Whistle Podu’ army from Chennai to Pune. “You can take CSK away from Chennai, but you can never take Chennai away from CSK” was brought to life for the love of yellow.
While the rest of the world criticized the team for being over- aged, the passionate fans were extremely supportive and brought out the best in the players. The team soaked in all the love and adoration, and reposed the faith the fans had in them by lifting the IPL 2018 trophy.
True to their formula of retaining the core and thereby their fan-base, CSK announced that 23 players from their 2018 winning combination will be donning yellow once again in IPL 2019. This excited the fans who took to social-media to welcome back the players they consider one of their own.
As was the case in 2018, the team management invited the Chennai crowd to witness the practice session this year too. 12,000 spectators were reported to have thronged Chepauk-a 1,000 more than in 2018. This visible increase in the footfall to witness a training session is testimony to CSK’s continuing, tremendous popularity.
Additionally, more than 1,300 fans around the world were said to have streamed the training session, live on the CSK website. The video of spectators whistling and cheering for the captain, Thala Dhoni and his deputy, Chinna Thala Raina, went viral and attracted the attention of cricketers worldwide, asserting the growth of the yellow family. As of today, with 12M followers on Facebook, 4.61M on twitter and 2M on Instagram, CSK is one of the most-followed IPL teams worldwide.
Whether the Super Kings do an encore and create history by winning the tournament for the fourth time, remains to be seen. The team can nevertheless be sure that the whistle podu army will always be behind them. Whistling, cheering and painting the city with lots of “Yellove”!
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