Chennai was gripped by cricket mania when the Southern Indian city-based Indian Premier League (IPL) franchise based out of south Indian city Chennai, Chennai Super Kings (CSK), held open-top bus parades and training sessions last week in the lead-up to their return to the cash-rich league.
The loyal fans of the MS Dhoni-led franchise had given a warm reception to the MS Dhoni-led franchise, which is making a comeback after serving out its two-year suspension over corruption.
The euphoria around the Men in Yellow was evident as thousands had flocked to the MA Chidambaram Stadium just to see the CSK stars doing training drills.
Will fans boycott CSK's home matches?
However, all the excitement seems to be turning into anxiety as CSK's homecoming might turn into a drab show due to Cauvery water issue, which has led to widespread protests across Tamil Nadu over the last few days.
As recently as on Friday, April 6, Tamil Nadu MLA TTV Dhinakaran called the cricket fans in the state to boycott IPL 2018 matches at the MA Chidambaram Stadium as a mark of protest against the central government over failure to set up Cauvery Management Board (CMB).
The Supreme Court, in its February 12 order had directed the center to institute the CMB in six week's time. Notably, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, the southern Indian neighboring states, have been involved in the decades-old river-sharing issue and the latter has opposed the setting up of the CMB.
Even as the ruling AIADMK and opposition parties led by DMK held hunger strikes and protests against Centre's stand on the Cauvery water issue, several regional parties, political commentators, and celebrities on social media have urged the fans to boycott CSK's home matches in the upcoming season.
Notably, the Chennai-based franchise will play its first home in two years when it hosts Kolkata Knight Riders on April 10.
'Boycott IPL to gain international attention'
Celebrated music composer James Vasanthan, in a Facebook post, urged fans to boycott CSK's first home match of the season, saying an empty MA Chidambaram Stadium would definitely urge international attention over the issue.
Noted sports commentator Sumanth C Raman echoed Vasanthan's thoughts and said he would not be attending or doing commentary for IPL matches in the upcoming season.
"This [boycott] will be a more powerful protest than a day-long bandh which finds hardly space on the national media," Raman was quoted as saying by Deccan Herald.
CSK, Tamil Nadu government react to calls of IPL 2018 boycott
Nonetheless, the Tamil Nadu government seems to unwilling to makes its stand clear over the issue.
"IPL is run by the BCCI and they will decide on the matches. It is not for us to decide," Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar said on Friday, according to the news report.
Meanwhile, the IPL franchise is monitoring the situation closely while hoping for a "smooth show" on its comeback. A senior CSK official told The Times of India that they are in touch with Chennai police over the law and order situation.
"Entering the playing field (in the stadium) will be tough with the kind of fencing we have in place. CSK is returning after two years. It has been a tough ride. We only hope that the show goes on smoothly," the official said.
Notably, this is not the first time controversy over a non-cricketing issue has affected CSK.
In 2013, IPL governing council was forced to pull Sri Lankan players out of Chennai following political tension over the much-talked-about treatment of ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka.
Tamil Nadu's then chief minister J Jayalalitha, on behalf of the state government, had written a letter regarding the same to the central government and the prime minister.