Chennai Super Kings v Rajasthan Royals, final, IPL June 1, 2008

Local support for visiting teams

Cricinfo staff
Are crowds supporting good cricket and not the much-hyped theory of club loyalty?

Mahendra Singh Dhoni's personality has helped Chennai Super Kings gain a following in other cities (file photo) © Getty Images

Mumbai Indians, the home team, weren't playing and the conditions were sweltering, but that didn't deter spectators from rushing up four floors to get to their seats. An hour before the scheduled start, they had already flooded the DY Patil Stadium, in time for the pre-match laser show. The atmosphere befitted Super Sunday.

One of the aims of the IPL was to cultivate a die-hard fan following for city-based teams. The theory succeeded to an extent as home crowds often booed visiting sides but, apart from franchise-sponsored supporters, teams don't yet have contingents of travelling fans. That explains why for a final between Rajasthan Royals and Chennai Super Kings, the majority of the crowd was local.

Jayaprakash, one of the fans from Chennai, said even outside of the suburb of Matunga, which has a strong presence of south Indians, there was a lot of support for his team in Mumbai because they were playing well. He felt Dhoni's personality was a big factor in Chennai attracting a lot of support. "Dhoni is a big attraction and he can create a huge following instantly."

Are crowds supporting good cricket and not the much-hyped theory of club loyalty? In both the semi-finals held at the Wankhede Stadium, crowd support swayed from team to team but there was always applause for good cricket. Surely, that wouldn't have been the case if Mumbai were contesting, and many of the other teams would concur.

EK Anantharaman, who claims he's never missed a big game at the Chepauk in Chennai for nearly 50 years, said the IPL has become a revelation, but is far from forcing the fan to travel outside his territory. "Travelling is too expensive and you won't find fans moving outside their cities to follow their team's progress" he said. "I will always enjoy watching Sachin Tendulkar - he is one apart. Tendulkar is the best, rest are nowhere," Anantharaman said with a smile. Just then Mahendra Singh Dhoni went for the toss and all the yellow shirts surrounding him stood up to applaud their captain. On their back the words read: "Fearless entertainers who play to win."