RCB chants rent the air inside and outside the stadium as team triumphs on manic Saturday night

RCB qualify for the playoffs for the ninth time. (Source: X.com)

It was around 4 PM on Saturday evening. For a few minutes, the resplendent sun had peeked through the angry clouds. It was time for yet another visit to the Chinnaswamy Stadium. As one traversed through heavy traffic, there was a whiff of something special about to happen.   Yes, for any Royal Challengers Bengaluru game played at the Chinnaswamy Stadium, there is a frenzied atmosphere. But the build-up for the all-important clash between Chennai Super Kings and RCB was different. In purely an imaginary sense, half the city dwellers seemed to have gathered in anticipation of buying a ticket to watch the game. 

Such was the crowd that there was hardly any place to stand on the footpath, outside the stadium. Even the park next to the ground was almost full. Although the main gate was nearby, one had to tread cautiously on the footpath. The initial task was to perform a balancing act, while wading through the massive roots of Peepal trees, with 100s of fans walking back and forth. And then there was a mild lathi-charge near the gate.

The trademark loud chants of “RCB, RCB, RCB…” could be heard all the while. Just that this time around, it was louder than usual, close to even deafening. At one point of time, CSK’s fans were walking through the Queens Road. Again, they were met with roars of “RCB, RCB…” And that brings up another question: What about the CSK fans? Yes, they were enough in numbers, too. Most of them had come to watch ‘Thala Dhoni’ take his guard, perhaps for one last time. On the given day, however, they were clearly outnumbered.

With such a massive crowd next to the stadium, there were traffic jams. The RCB team bus, with the slogan ‘Play Bold’  written on it took, around 30 minutes to navigate through a maze of traffic from the Queens Road to the stadium. To put it into perspective, on a normal day, it could take around 4-5 minutes for the same bus at enter the gate. 

Soon, the marquee clash commenced. When RCB’s favourite son, Virat Kohli, cracked a boundary, the entire stadium seemed to be making its presence felt. A couple of CSK players might have wondered whether they were in some kind of a bearpit. And this kind of ear-splitting noise was there for a mere boundary.

The fervent support also played a major role in RCB’s thrilling victory. The energy levels of the players on the field were very high. Faf du Plessis took a blinder, where for a moment it felt like he was an UFO from a different planet. The ground fielding was top-notch as well. The fans were clearly the 12th man for the franchise as RCB charted a stunning turnaround with a nail-chewing victory to chisel out a path to the Playoffs.

The think-tank —  Andy Flower, Virat Kohli and Faf du Plessis – deserves praise. When they hurtled to a one-run loss against Kolkata Knight Riders, no one gave them chance. At that juncture, they had emerged victorious in a solitary game. Now, they are on a six-match undefeated run. Who knows? They might do the unthinkable by winning nine in a row and grab the IPL trophy next Sunday. If that happens, then the entire Bengaluru will erupt in joy.