How Whistle Podu and Yellove make Chennai Super Kings a team apart

CSK Superfans- Prabhu Damodaran (L) & Saravanan Hari (R).

While marquee players may command attention, cricket’s sustenance lies in its fans, who constitute the solid support base. The IPL serves as a testament to this, showcasing how fans dictate the game’s trajectory and ensure that cricket remains immune to slowdowns or spectator fatigue. With fervent fan support, matches consistently sell out, TV viewership soars, and sponsors eagerly offer substantial financial backing. Among IPL franchises, the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) stand out as the followed team, evidenced by their substantial social media following. MS Dhoni, CSK’s skipper since the league’s inception, has arguably been the driving force behind the formation of the ‘Yellow Army’.

During CSK matches, whether held in India or overseas, one can spot fans donning yellow T-shirts and proudly waving CSK team flags. Amidst the bustling crowds at IPL venues, one can often find an unassuming figure adorned in CSK’s trademark yellow attire, complete with a black curly wig, a whistle, and the iconic number 7 on his back. This figure is none other than Saravanan Hari, arguably CSK’s most dedicated fan.

During the IPL season, Saravanan finds himself constantly engaged with his mobile phone. Broadcasters seek him for shoots, acquaintances request tickets, and fellow fans approach him for photos. Despite his hectic schedule, Saravanan always carves out time to prepare for CSK matches, particularly to show unwavering support for ‘Thala’ Dhoni. Having witnessed Dhoni’s gameplay for numerous years, and even meeting him in person on occasion, Saravanan remains steadfast in his dedication to supporting CSK.

“The energy of watching Dhoni sir lead the team and his presence keeps me going and cheering for him and CSK,” says Saravanan. “Every time I get to see a live game, I paint myself, don’t eat or drink after the paint until the end of the game, and I forget myself.”

The bond between die-hard fans like Saravanan and their beloved ‘Thala’ is not one-sided. They receive an equal measure of love and affection in return. This sentiment is vividly captured in a cherished memory recounted by Saravanan: “One of my most memorable moments is when Thala himself named my daughter Diya.”

A notable aspect of the CSK frenzy is undoubtedly the significance of the colour yellow. Initially foreign, it has now become synonymous with the team’s identity, affectionately termed “yellove” by fans. Examples abound of the deep attachment fans have to this hue, from Hari’s elaborate body painting to a CSK supporter in Cuddalore who painted his entire house in shades of yellow.

One remarkable episode in CSK’s fandom saga was the journey of the Whistle Podu Army to Pune during the 2018 season, when matches were relocated from Chennai because of the Cauvery protests. Traveling on the Whistle Podu Express, they cheered fervently, embodying the spirit of the team and ultimately celebrating their side lifting the trophy. Similar to the CSK team itself, the Whistle Podu Army’s journey has been eventful. At the forefront of this initiative was Prabhu Damodaran, Saravanan’s close friend and co-founder of CSK’s official fan group, The Whistle Podu Army. 

As a devoted super fan, Prabhu has had the privilege of meeting Dhoni on several occasions. When asked about the experience of watching Dhoni in action from the stands, Prabhu said: “This is something which is beyond words. We can learn a lot from a leader like him, and I love watching him setting the field after every ball based on the batsman and how he creates opportunities. One of my favourite encounters was when I met Thala and got an IPL stump autographed, where he carefully took time, saying stumps are the most difficult to sign.”

While Saravanan holds the 2021 final win as a standout moment, Prabhu cherishes the 2018 final victory, particularly significant after CSK’s absence in the 2016 and 2017 seasons.

Former players who have donned the CSK jersey agree with Saravanan and Prabhu’s sentiments when discussing what sets CSK apart from other teams and contributes to its success.

“The family bonding, the management, support staff and above all Captain Cool who inspires everyone around and gets the best out of every Super King who sports the Yellow Jersey,” said Saravanan. “One is the leadership involving Captain Cool and coaches around, second is the fact that management doesn’t involve in cricketing decisions and leaves it to the captain to decide, and rather focusses on keeping the family environment as a Super Family,” added Prabhu.

Amid widespread speculation about Dhoni possibly playing his final IPL season, another passionate fan, Martin Robert, remains optimistic that even if CSK’s beloved Thala decides to retire, he will continue to be involved with the franchise in some capacity, given his deep affection for the team and the city.

“We have seen a lot of hints from him,” said Martin. “Looks to be his last season in yellow as a player. But we never know, possibly another ‘Definitely not’ can come in as well. I’m pretty sure he will be with CSK in some or the other role. His love and connect with CSK will be a never-ending one.”

All three devoted fans proudly embody the spirit of the Whistle Podu Army – a collective that operates as an integral part of the extended CSK family. Their enthusiastic whistles never fail to boost the players’ morale. As the CSK players uphold the ‘Yellove’ tradition on the field, these fans remain steadfast in their support off the field, continuing to ‘Whistle Podu’ for their beloved team.

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