Teams win matches, crowd hearts at Chepauk- The New Indian Express



Express News Service

CHENNAI: There were different shades of green and a fair bit of blue at the Chepauk here on Friday. South Africa vs Pakistan; the iconic MA Chidambaram stadium was hosting the last allocated match of this ODI World Cup. The excitement was palpable. As the crowd swelled to 29,000 (35,000 capacity), in the evening, the atmosphere was electric. The match turned intense with Pakistan enacting a heroic comeback of their own. However, South Africa held on to eke out a one-wicket win.

Yet, the ones that won the hearts were the crowd. Unlike most venues they thronged the stadium in numbers even in non-India matches. They hooted for every brilliant fielding effort and cheered every boundary. If you could hear the roar Shaheen Shah Afridi got in his final spell you wouldn’t know if it was Chennai or Karachi. This had been the mood since the first match played between India and Australia on Oct 8.

South Africa’s Tabraiz Shamsi, who took four wickets and was on the other end when Keshav Maharaj scored the winning runs, sums it up quite succinctly: “This was the first time for me in Chennai and it was amazing. Even when we were fielding, I just thought to myself that they were supporting both teams. Even in the end when we were scoring runs, they were cheering for us and when Shaheen was taking wickets he got applause. I loved all of it.”

And it was not just about the crowd. Mickey Arthur, Pakistan team director, also applauded the facilities provided by the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association. “The crowd was outstanding tonight. Take the results out of the way (for us), Chennai has been outstanding. Training facilities, everything has been brilliant,” he said.

For Mohammed Nawaz, a Chennaiite working in Malaysia, it was kind of a Deja vu. “I was in my final year of college when Saeed Anwar scored 194 here at Chepauk. I remember many Pakistan players visited The New College Mosque to offer their prayers,” donning the Babar Azam replica jersey told this daily before the match between Pakistan and Afghanistan on October 23. And he was not the only one. The crowd that came in wearing Babar’s shirt equally cheered when Afghanistan stunned Pakistan. They soaked every moment of the Afghan victory lap. In the end, there was genuine love for the game.

There was applause and genuine love for the game they all love. It was probably fitting that the crowd that loves sports for what it is without supporting the sides got probably the closest game of this edition of the World Cup on Friday night.

“To be honest, Chennai crowds are different from others. They will support the game, not the country. I am proud to be one of those,” Nawaz summarized what sets the ‘Knowledgeable Chennai Crowd’ apart from others. Chepauk might be done with its quota of fixtures for this WC, but the enthusiasm for cricket will always stand tall, no matter who takes the field.

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