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Tamil Nadu – Karnataka: An underrated rivalry that seems to burn brighter with time

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The Tamil Nadu-Karnataka rivalry in domestic cricket has gone through a constant, eventual shift from the former to the latter in terms of results. This fierce contest extends way back to the old days when they were Mysuru, and Madras states. Initially during the 1930s through to late 1960s it was Tamil Nadu who had the wood over the Kannadigas comfortably, this including a Ranji Trophy title. It has to be mentioned that their first loss against their rivals came only in the 1941-42 Ranji season.

Leading into the early 70s the rivalry was balanced, looking as if any one of the two could win. This changed as the decade went on as Karnataka started winning more and by the time the ’90s arrived, it was them who were dictating terms. They won the tournament thrice in that period, including their first ever title in 1972. In the 1995-96 season they completed a double over Tamil Nadu, winning convincingly in both the group stage and the final.

When the Vijay Hazare trophy introduced definitive winners of the One Day competition in 2002-03, TN got their first title before Karnataka in this format as well (no finals were held in VJH trophy for it’s first 8 years and teams played within their zones). But it was the latter who ran away to a big and early head to head lead. The introduction of the IPL gave TN an opening to claw back to parity in the South Indian rivalry. As the seasons wore on Chennai Super Kings kept their lead over Royal Challengers Bangalore and it spilled over to the One Day format.

Eventually Tamil Nadu started to close in on Karnataka in the Vijay Hazare Trophy and as of early 2019 they just trailed 6 to their arch-rivals’ 7 in terms of H2H wins. Apart from cricket the Cauvery river has been a major source of competition, even clashes, between the two states. There’s a point of difference even with food, as both don’t see eye to eye on the use of jaggery. People in Tamil Nadu are irked by how much it is used in Kannada food, especially in the famous sambar.

This year the rivalry reached a peak with both teams clashing in the Vijay Hazare Trophy 2019-20 finals.  There were quite a few fans from both sides active on Twitter cheering their respective teams.  You could sense their desire to see their team overthrow their Cauvery counterparts. A 43-year old cricket fan from Chennai, Madhusudanan Ramadevan, had this to share: “To me, rivalry in sport makes it a notch above being interesting and competitive.  I support Chennai because that’s one place I will always call home. Especially the rivalry with Bangalore/Karnataka makes it more interesting.”

Politics is something which may have been fueling this rivalry starting from a lot of decades ago. In 2017 this reached disgraceful levels during a strike regarding the Cauvery river water when some Tamil Nadu lorries, and a few drivers were thrashed in Karnataka, basically things that had Tamilians to do with, even shops weren’t spared. In Tamil Nadu some vehicles with Karnataka registrations were bashed in and a few people were hit as a response. This eventually spilled into cricket in CSK’s comeback year, intentionally one might say by politicians and a few cinema people. Madhusudanan added to his views saying “I also felt that the Cauvery dispute added some fire to the rivalry, sometimes going overboard from both ends. It’s always good to put politics away from sports.”

The violent nature of the protests during the KKR game in Chennai, forced the management to move the rest of Super Kings home games to Pune. But, most fans from both TN and Karnataka would agree that they wouldn’t let it affect the rivalry, i.e, change it to something more than enjoying the cricket contest. However not every change happens when you are conscious of it.

While we don’t see much difference today from 2 years ago in their cricket, somehow somewhere subconsciously these incidents would trigger a change in mindset that could happen a number of months or more after the initial incident. The earliest sense of rivalry between these two teams was triggered due to politics of the Cauvery after all.

There may be quite a few differences between the people of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu as mentioned, but there are unifying factors. The love for Mysore pak, a delicacy from Karnataka remains the same across these states, so does the fandom behind big cinema stars. Above all, love for cricket, of course, is something that harmonizes their voices. Fans from both these south Indian states go crazy especially for their respective sides in the IPL.

RCB fans are definitely the most loyal in terms of this tournament, still believing in their teams even after 12 years of an empty trophy cabinet, a symbol of hope. CSK fans nearly worship their team, especially their Thala MS Dhoni and are always present in whatever ground they play. Both these fan armies are probably unparalleled in their respective specialities.




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