Taking on the baton from Sudhir Kumar Chaudhary, the man who went from being Sachin’s fan to the official fan for the Indian cricket team, Saravanan Hari is the official fan for IPL outfit Chennai Super Kings. He is also the main man of the Whistle Podu Army (CSK fan army).
Saravanan and his Whistle Podu Army were in Mumbai for the match between MI and CSK, and we got a chance to talk to him about his experience. Here’s what the CSK fan had to say…
How and when did it all start?
There are many reasons how it started but the most important reason is one and only MS Dhoni. I like most of the sports but cricket is my favorite and it has been since my school time.
I started watching live matches from the year 2008 and before that, only a handful of matches were played in Chennai. I never imagined that I would paint myself and stand in the midst of such a large crowd for the game.
In 2010, an incident occurred in my life where I met with an accident and my ligaments got severely injured. So, it was not possible for me to go and watch Dhoni or the game for two years. In 2013, my friends and I, while on a drive, decided to do something for Dhoni and CSK. We felt it was important to give our share of respect and love to the man who got us the 2011 World Cup and T20 World Cup. We felt it was our responsibility to do it.
Who would you choose between Dhoni and CSK?
If Dhoni would have been playing for any other franchise, I would still be his fan first. But the amazing part is how God played his game and fulfilled our wish to see Dhoni in CSK.
What were you doing before IPL happened?
To speak the truth, I am a Sachin fan. I remember my school days… Today, we see a lot of day and night matches happening, but back in those days, there used to be only day matches which would start by 9 am and finish by 2 pm. So I used to bunk my school and sneak into the stadiums and watch Sachin play. When he used to get out, people would switch off the television set. I felt strange about how important Sachin was for us. But then there came the man (Dhoni) who fulfilled Sachin’s wish of winning a World Cup. That is when I became a Dhoni fan. However, Sachin is the God of cricket and no one can compare or replace him ever.
I am happy and proud to be a fan of Dhoni; its big for me. Dhoni has played for comparatively less period of time (than Sachin) but he is loved and has fans in all age groups.
Is your travel and ticket sponsored by the franchise?
There are many franchises around the world but I just wish to say CSK is the best. They have never differentiated between players and fans. In 2013, many (IPL) matches were played in Chennai but due to some stand issues, they were later shifted to a different location. So, I requested the management if they can just arrange the tickets for me somehow. They, however, covered my total travel and stay expenses. To answer the question, yes, the CSK management has sponsored us.
Do you and your team go for all the CSK matches?
The management sponsors all the away matches and sometimes it is according to the management’s plans as well.
Did you get any endorsement or ads through this?
I have featured with my idol Dhoni in an ad for mobile app, Dream 11. It was sponsored by CSK and I am delighted to be a part of that ad.
How popular are you in your hometown?
I don’t know really how to evaluate. I realized that (I have become popular) in my hometown when my fans started calling me to say they wanted to meet me. They would also ask for my seat number in the stadium. I have unconditional love and respect for them. Today, I am here, mainly because of the support of fans that appreciate and love me. I am grateful for what I have and wish to do more for my idol every day.
How long does it take for you to paint yourself before a match?
Last year, I started wearing a skin-inner as I was concerned about my skin getting damaged. However, this is only for away matches; for home matches, I apply the paint directly on my body. It takes about 3 to 5 hours to complete the entire process. The adrenaline is really high when I’m in the stadium, and on most days, I stand throughout the match.
One word for the entire experience.
It’s ANBH. (The word primary means love, but it has a few other meanings as well.)
One last thing is a plea to all of you. You already know my love for Dhoni and I wish to watch him play live in England as that would probably be his final World Cup. I hope anyone reading this can get me a sponsorship; I will be extremely grateful.