Chennai Super Kings' home matches in IPL 2018 have been moved out of Chennai, but they won't be lacking in support in Pune, as the team management has arranged a chartered train called 'Whistle Podu Express' from Chennai to Pune for about 1000 fans. All the expenses of the fans, including food, accommodation, local transportation, train and match tickets, will be borne by the CSK management.
The arrangements have been made only for the game against Rajasthan Royals on Friday, but CSK officials are keen to bring the fans back for the remaining 'home' matches in Pune too.
CSK's fans created a buzz on Thursday morning, when they reached the Chennai Central railway station as early as 6am for the 8.30am train. After watching the match on Friday night, the fans will leave for Chennai the next day in the same train. Fourteen coaches, including one air-conditioned coach, have been allotted by the Indian railways.
"Fans from the CSK fan club were very particular about seeing the match," Kasi Viswananthan, the Super Kings CEO, told ESPNcricinfo. "The fans made a request to make arrangements just three days back, and we took it up and thought it would be a good gesture to give back to the fans who have been the livewire for the team, even when the team was not there for two years.
"To organise for all matches in Pune is going to be a big task. Depending on the first match experience, we'll explore the possibilities for the coming matches. Everything is for the CSK fans."
ARR Sriram, the joint-secretary of CSK's fan club, was thrilled with the management's response and the revelry among the fans in the train.
"We had planned to go to every home match and cheer for the team this season, but, unfortunately, the games were shifted out of Chennai," he said. "Thanks to the CSK management, we can cheer for the team in Pune now. Recently, you saw the support for CSK when they landed in Pune. The atmosphere in the train is electric. We have created a separate WhatsApp group for the fans in the train, and it's full of excitement.
"Fans had arrived at the railway station at 6am itself; the train left Chennai at 8.30. Chennai Central was filled with Yellow Army, and the other passengers came and asked where we were going. It's like a once-in-a-lifetime feeling."
Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo