There were protests inside and outside of the opening home game in Chennai on Tuesday. Farmers were joined by activists and some film stars.
The police closed roads to the stadium, and at least 20 protesters were arrested. Inside, a pair of shoes was thrown on the field, although no harm was done, and the South African player Faf du Plessis amiably tossed the shoes back in the crowd.
Saravanan Hari, a devoted Super Kings fan known for painting himself yellow for games, was reportedly attacked and struck by protesters outside the stadium before the game. “I don’t know why they wanted to hit me. They just hit me and ran away,” he told The News Minute. He said he sympathized with the cause, but wanted the games to be played. “We are CSK fans; we are also Tamilians. We also want TN to get Cauvery water. But we are for the cricket match. Theatres are running movies, will you stop it?”
Cricket officials were concerned about the safety of the players, and police officials were concerned about their ability to manage ongoing protests.
And everyone was concerned about snakes after a threat to release some at the game. “We have deployed a team of snake catchers from the Guindy national park at the stadium,” a police official told Indian Express.
Compounding the controversy was that the game was the first in Chennai for three years. The team is coming off a suspension after corruption and match-fixing charges.
That lack of recent cricket in Chennai prompted a high level of anticipation for the game and a sold-out, enthusiastic crowd. Chennai’s team includes overseas stars like Dwayne Bravo of Trinidad and Shane Watson of Australia, as well as M.S. Dhoni, a former captain of the Indian national team. Chennai won the game when Ravindra Jadeja hit a six on the next-to-last ball, and moved to 2-0 on the season.
In recent years, Chennai’s sports scene has been marked more by the absence of I.P.L. cricket than by its presence. In addition to the ban for 2016 and 2017, Chennai’s home games in 2014 were moved to Ranchi, 1,000 miles away, because of a dispute between the stadium and the state.
Visakhapatnam, Thiruvananthapuram, Pune and Rajkot were all being considered for this season’s relocated games.