You love a few teams. You hate a few. But very rarely comes across a team which has such a polarized fan following that it is impossible to ignore it. When it comes to the Indian Premier League, Chennai Super Kings is that team.
The ones who like the team, revere it. The ones who don’t, loathe it. And they are not referred to as the Manchester United of the IPL for nothing.
But how did a team develop such an interesting fan following equation in a mere matter of six years? How does a club that plays together for just about two months every year develop into a brand equivalent to that of the New York Yankees? How did CSK become the most supported club in spite of not having a Shah Rukh Khan or a Preity Zinta sitting in their dug-outs?
The first obvious reason that comes to mind is team success. CSK has been the most successful team in the short history of the IPL. They are the only team to have reached the playoffs every single time and they look set to continue that streak. They are twice champions and also have a Champions League T20 trophy in their cabinet. This is a team whose resume could easily be compared with that of a Manchester United, Barcelona or New York Yankees.
The second and probably the more important reason is continuity with the teams. MS Dhoni, Suresh Raina, Albie Morkel, Stephen Fleming and Michael Hussey along with a horde of local talent, i.e. S Badrinath, R Ashwin, Murali Vijay and Srikanth Anirudha to name a few are a part of the team for all the past seasons. These names have become synonymous with the club till date.
The local flavor was intact and the fans loved it.
The flavor of the team is also prominent in their anthem, “Whistle Podu” and “Raise your hands”. The jingles have played their part in seducing the fans — the flash mobs in San Francisco and Chennai are proof enough for it. It has an apparel collection of its own, which is promoted by the players themselves. Also when it comes to social networking and connecting with fans CSK is leads other teams by a distance.
Another major similarity with the huge names mentioned before, i.e. Manchester United, Barcelona etc is the hate against the team. For every one CSK supporter, there seem to be five CSK haters. A team has not made it to the big leagues until it doesn’t just have a loyal fan base, but also has a huge base of loyal haters. CSK fans can proudly say that theirs is the first IPL team to have made it.
The CSK ‘fandom’ is surreal. The fans are crazy and worship the team and the players love the atmosphere and the adulation they get from the fans.
Each and every player who joins the Super Kings seems to genuinely enjoy playing for the team, which in turn often translates into success.
Myself being a CSK fan, it is impossible for me to not be a part of the CSK experience.