Cricket as they say is a religion in India, with legendary cricketers like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, Sourav Ganguly worshipped as demi-gods. While these players certainly enjoy unimaginable love and affection in any city around the country, there is a special relationship which some of them have formed with a particular city and ground. One such example is the connect visible between Sachin and his hometown Mumbai.
One sight of the legendary cricketer at the iconic Wankhede stadium in Mumbai, is enough to draw the presence of thousands of fans eager to catch one look of their hero. Another such special bond is the one shared between Ganguly and Kolkata, as evident from the historic D/N Test in Eden Gardens, Kolkata which was fully packed. One of the major reasons behind this was the initiative being the brain-child of the current BCCI president.
However, the relationship shared between MS Dhoni and the Chepauk Stadium, Chennai is one which cannot be described in words. The legendary wicket-keeper batsman has carved an iconic relationship with the ground, over the years having led the Chennai Super Kings on to glory and delivering many special performances at the venue over the years. In such a tense scenario came Rishabh Pant considered the successor to Dhoni in the national team, to represent India in the opening ODI of the three-match series against West Indies at the Chepauk Stadium, Chennai.
Filling in the mighty shoes of the legendary wicket-keeper was certainly going to be a tough ask for any cricketer, as Pant soon realised. The 22-year-old cricketer had been booed and jeered at almost each of the home matches where he had stepped in behind the stumps. This further refused to stop despite a sign of displeasure from charismatic skipper Virat Kohli during the second T20I at Thiruvananthapuram.
Pant's poor performances certainly did not help matters with talk of him being dropped increasing in intensity, as the Indian team reached Chennai. The scale of the vitriol was also expected to be magnified manifolds as he stepped out on to the pitch, as a replacement for Dhoni. One would certainly expect Chepauk to be the sternest test ever for the lanky youngster.
However, 22-year-old Pant gave the world an indication of his mental strength and determination beyond the years, scoring 71 (69) in an innings comprising of seven boundaries and a six. The cricketer stitched a partnership of 114 runs alongside Shreyas Iyer, after the hosts were reduced to 25/2 at one stage.
There was a mixture of awe and supreme respect amongst the audience as the 22-year-old mixed caution with aggression, to give the fans an indication of his talent and capabilities. Such was the intensity of this knock from Pant who registered his maiden ODI century, that the Chepauk crowd was moved to chanting his name with gusto and intensity, despite all their love for Dhoni. A certain section of the audience further gave him a standing ovation as he walked back to the pavilion after a heroic knock.
Pant's supreme innings played a key role in India posting a total of 287 on a turning pitch, which is an indication of his prowess. However, the Chepauk stadium will more importantly bear testimony to a memorable knock from the 22-year-old at his predecessor's virtual abode, with his transformation from boy to man going down the annals of the history of Indian cricket.