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The loser is … CRICKET

When the Englishmen departed from this country, they left behind three legacies: the Railways, the game of Cricket, and the English language. Over the years, we have neglected our Railways, Indianised the English and commercialised cricket to the hilt. The result: today, cricket is the most secular game in our country, with men and women cutting across party lines, having a share in the huge pie. Where else would you find an Arun Jaitley partying with Sharad Pawar, to name just one.

For long, cricket was a gentleman’s game until the IPL came and completely destroyed it.  What began as a wonderful cocktail between sports and entertainment lead to a painful hangover and a bundle of scams that threaten to swallow the very fabric of our life. Well, that’s another story, to which we shall revert another day.  Let’s turn to an equally dirty story.

You know there is an entire generation of Indians who have grown up on the fun and frolic that the Chepauk once threw up every Pongal. It has always been a very knowledgeable and very sportive crowd. Can you imagine any other crowd in this country that would give the Pakistanis a standing ovation after they beat India in a match that Sachin Tendulkar almost single-handedly tried to win for India?  That’s the sort of audience you have in a game which is rapidly resembling a bullfight, post IPL.

For years, a man called M A Chidambaram, after whom the Chepauk stadium is named, dominated the affairs of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA). After that, his son A C Muthiah, took over the mantle, as though it was a kingdom that had to be passed on from father to son. These two contributed their own resources and also from the support of business houses, built the TNCA as a prosperous entity. It is much easier to mobilise money for cricket in our cricket-crazy country, than for the more needed social causes. Or may be cricket itself was a social issue!

Unlike the politicians on the other side of the Vindhyas (the oily Sharad Pawar, the glib Arun Jaitley and the portly journalist turned administrator Rajeev Shukla), the politicians of the south did not attempt to gain control.  The lack of interest on the part of the politicians resulted in the waning of the Corporation-owned Nehru Stadium in the Moore Market complex and the flourishing of the

M A Chidambaram Stadium at Chepauk.  That of-course is old hat.

But there were enough, and more of rivalry between business tycoons. None of them is reconciled to losing it. Look at the rivalry bet-ween A C Muthiah and N Srinivasan; the two can’t see eye-to-eye with each other although originally, the latter was the former’s protégé.  The rapid ascent of Srinivasan at the BCCI and subsequently at the ICC and the popularity of the Chennai Super Kings promoted by him, has fanned a good deal of opposition to him. But ‘Srini mama’ (that’s how the Facebook crowd calls him) succeeded in maintaining his support base and control over TNCA.


The three stands remaining closed...

The state association has been encountering a whole lot of problems. A serious one relates to three stands of the stadium remaining closed on charges of violation of building rules. As a result, Chennai has been missing out on several of the international and IPL match opportunities. It speaks volumes of the docile nature of the Chennaites that they have been taking this lying down. Imagine how the times have changed from when every Pongal you had a cricket match to now when the games are few and far between.  In the current season, TNCA obtained court permission to conduct the matches locking the three

stands. Of course, this made it lose nearly 40 per cent of total capacity. It was ridiculous to watch the empty stands.  Money wise, it may not have mattered much, as TNCA kept the cost of tickets in the other stands higher. Of-course docile Chennai took it lying down.

A more recent problem relates to a demand for hefty due of rent for lease amounting to Rs 750 crore. By April 2015, the 20-year old lease of the stadium got ended. More uncertainty hangs over the future of cricket at MAC Stadium.  Because of all these, Chennai is rapidly losing out to later entrants like Ahmedabad, Mohali and even Ranchi.

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