Chennai play it like champions do
If Tiger Woods wins a 15th championship, Roger Federer scoops his 17th Grand Slam or Real Madrid storm to a 32nd La Liga title, we're unlikely to be flabbergasted. Even if it comes at a time when their Midas-like touches appear to be being eroded by younger, sexier competition, we won't be totally surprised. The truth is that all three of those are cemented in our minds as champions, deities and heroes and sooner or later we expect that they'll do something godly to reassure us that they still deserve to be thought of as such.
IPL teams do not have that status yet. How can they? The IPL is only three seasons old and besides the number of dissidents who refuse to associate themselves with it, even real fans have no clue who will establish themselves as the perennial team to beat. Each season yielded a different winner while the same teams haven't been consistently better than others in all three years.
That's not to say the IPL deserves all the scorn it's getting. In time, traditional rivalries will build, so too will traditional powerhouses. The Chennai Super Kings may have laid the first brick in that construction's name when they comprehensively walloped Wayamba in Centurion on Wednesday night.
They beat the team from Sri Lanka by 97 runs, a margin of victory that has not been achieved in the tournament before. Murali Vijay and Suresh Raina put on 137 for the second wicket, the highest in the Champions League's short history. That helped Chennai reach 200 for three, the highest score in this year's competition so far. R Ashwin captured four for 18, the best bowling figures of this year's tournament to date and the win makes Chennai the first IPL team to register two consecutive wins in the CLT20.
Everything about Chennai on the night screamed, "We are champions." Their aggressive intent with the bat, their killer instinct with the ball and their error-free demonstration in the field was all the stuff of conquerors. They even have an Americanised, spelling-bee cheerleading jingle, which was just about the only music one could hear in the stadium to accompany their antics. It goes like this: S-U-PER, K-I-NGS, in a high pitched voice so ditzy you can hear the blonde in it.
Irritating or not, that song is what is going to stick in the minds of people who watched Wayamba whittled and that song is how they will identify with and remember Chennai. And that is what real champions do. They break records, they set new ones, they lay claim to statistics, facts, trivia and even music that can be associated with them alone.
Chennai were pioneers in two ways before this match even began: Matthew Hayden was the first to wield the Mongoose bat in this year's IPL and Muttiah Muralitharan is the only man who can wear the number 800 on his shirt with it having real meaning. Both were given their fair share of crowd attention. It's those details that create links between players and supporters and build traditions. The strongest tie to the fans tonight lay with another player - a favourite son of SuperSport Park - Albie Morkel. The most rousing of welcomes was saved for him. Fond applause followed him as he batted and passionate cheering when he bowled. As luck would have it, the home boy took the first two wickets, swaying any straying member of the audience to throw their weight behind Chennai.
There was a definite sense in the stadium that a small part of history was being witnessed, marking the start of something special. When Wayamba were reduced to 35 for 6, the restlessness rode through the air. It's not that people wanted to go home, they wanted to see more records being smashed. Chennai were in the position to bowl Wayamba out for the lowest total any team has been dismissed for in the Champions League. The Cape Cobras hold that ignominy after they were ousted for 84 in last year's tournament.
It was a chance missed by Chennai as they loosened their grip slightly. Nonetheless, they still bowled Wayamba out for 103 and previously Central Districts for 94 - the lowest scores this edition. Those are figures that will be remembered and talked about for some time. They could be among the figures that feature on a page in the history book that's just begun to be written.
Firdose Moonda is a freelance writer based in Johannesburg