Sounds of thunder drown in Dhoni chants

CSK have won the first match of IPL 2024. Source (X)

The stage was set for the IPL 2024 opener between the defending champions, Chennai Super Kings (CSK), and Royal Challengers Bengaluru (RCB). The match was scheduled to begin at 8 PM with the toss at 7:40, and MA Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai was brimming with anticipation.

Prior to the match, a star-studded opening ceremony — featuring AR Rahman, Sonu Nigam, Akshay Kumar, Tiger Shroff and others — was lined up to dazzle the spectators from 6:30 PM.

Well before the festivities commenced, a stroll around Chepauk at 4 PM left no doubt who was at the centre of all this. Despite handing over CSK’s captaincy to Ruturaj Gaikwad, MS Dhoni’s popularity among Chennai’s denizens remains unparalleled. At 42, he stands as one of India’s biggest crowd pullers, in a city famous for its fervour for cricket.

By 4 PM, thousands had gathered outside the stadium, proudly sporting the iconic ‘Dhoni 7’ on their CSK jerseys. Those who did not have tickets were trying their luck in the black market. If roughly calculated, 90 per cent of the populace had ‘Dhoni 7’ printed on the back of their yellow shirts. Most of the rest had Virat Kohli, who returned after a break, on their jerseys.


Half way through the opening ceremony, the stadium was jam-packed. However, the best part of the pre-match proceedings came following the fireworks post the ceremony. Why? Because Dhoni had walked in to warm up.

This writer, along with a fellow journalist, who had an Iphone (will come to that in a bit), went to the top stand just above the press box to get a hang of the actual noise the Chepauk crowd was making during the ceremony. They were loud enough as they cheered the singers. But they went absolute bonkers after seeing their beloved ‘Thala’ out on the pitch.

As we were still standing on the top stand, the Iphone gave a warning sign. “Loud environment sound levels hit 90 decibels. Around 30 minutes at this level can cause temporary hearing loss,” it flashed. Curious enough, the fellow journalist checked his Apple watch to get the exact decibel levels. It flashed 110db.

Dhoni was still warming up and wore his keeping gloves for his usual pre-match preparation drill. Suddenly, the stadium started booming with the chants of ‘Dhoni, Dhoni’. The fans were craving to watch him back on the field. After all, it was Thala. Even in the presence of Kohli, Dhoni commanded undivided attention.

Mustafizur Rahman gave CSK a terrific start with the ball. He bowled his heart out and ended up with a four-wicket haul. The Bangladeshi pacer got the big wickets of Kohli, Faf du Plessis, Rajat Patidar and big buy Cameron Green.

But do you know, which dismissal got the loudest cheer? The Patidar wicket. Why? Because it was Dhoni who caught the ball to complete the dismissal.

While Anuj Rawat and local boy Dinesh Karthik’s 95-run partnership got enough cheers from the crowd, the next biggest cheer was arguably when Dhoni threw the ball to perfection to run Rawat out in the last delivery of the innings. Yes, there were some extremely loud whistles from the sea of yellow inside the stadium but none could match the intensity of the cheers which Dhoni drew.

Each appearance of Dhoni on the big screen elicited a frenzy of emotions, underscoring his status not merely as a cricketer but an emotion for the fans of the Yellow Army. Although Dhoni didn’t get a chance to bat, it would be interesting to check the decibel levels again once he walks out with the willow in hand.

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