Monday, May 16, 2022

IND Vs ENG: Test Cricket Returns To Chennai After More Than Four Years, But There's Sadness In The City

The first two Tests of the four-match India vs England series will be played in Chennai, while Ahmedabad will host the remaining matches

IND Vs ENG: Test Cricket Returns To Chennai After More Than Four Years, But There's Sadness In The City
Indian team huddle at The Chepauk, Chennai Screengrabs: BCCI

Devoid of Test cricket for more than four years, residents of the city are delighted to finally see the return of red-ball action at the MA Chidambaram Stadium when India play England in the series opener here from Friday, even though the usual buzz is missing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Incidentally, the last Test which Chennai hosted was also between India and England from December 16 to 20, 2016.

The first two Tests of the four-match series will be played in Chennai, while Ahmedabad will host the remaining matches.

The series opener will be played behind closed doors in view of the COVID-19 pandemic but the BCCI and Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) have allowed 50 percent crowd attendance in the second match following fresh government guidelines.

City resident S Krishnan, who wanted to witness the first match from the ground, said that Test matches don't happen regularly here and when fans are not allowed it makes it all the more disappointing.

"I have watched several matches at MAC. It is an iconic venue and a lucky one for India...Have seen Sachin (Tendulkar) play some memorable innings here. One has to be at the stadium to feel the atmosphere," he told PTI.

"But the fact that spectators will not be allowed (for the first Test) is disappointing. Though the pandemic is a reason for the crowd being kept away, it feels sad that fans won't be there," he added.

Krishnan, in his sixties, is however, happy that crowd would be allowed in the second Test.

Another elderly cricket fan C Krishnamurthy, who has watched a number of Tests at Chepauk including the historic tie against Australia, said there is no greater feeling for a cricket lover than watching five-day matches at the stadium.

"For a traditionalist like me, there is no better feeling than watching Test matches in a stadium. The atmosphere at the ground is incredible. It was a privilege to be able to watch the tied Test which will always remain in my memory. The (Indian) win over England in 2008 is another game I remember fondly as Tendulkar shone in a tough chase," he said.

He recalled that the entire locality would wear a festive atmosphere during cricket matches but of late the city had not seen too many Tests with more ODIs and T20s being allotted.

"The Triplicane locality (where the stadium is located) would be buzzing with activity during Test matches those days and traffic would be diverted during the match and one could spot police personnel at various points.

"Now, things have changed. People hardly know if a Test match is on except for the die-hard fans. At least Tests in Chennai still draw crowds. We have to see the fans' response for the second Test as the virus is still not completely gone...," he added.

S Sunanda, who witnessed India's win over England in the 2016 Test here, said she was not a great fan of cricket but enjoyed being at the stadium along with her husband.

"Though I am not a big fan I quite enjoyed the atmosphere at Chepauk when India pulled off the win, which at a stage did not look possible with a draw looming over. The delight on the faces of the spectators when every English wicket fell showed how much they were immersed in the proceedings," she added.

Abdul Ismail, who runs a tea shop in the locality, said he was delighted Test cricket was returning to the city after so many years but lamented the fact that fans would not be allowed for the first game.

"I love it when cricket matches happen here. There would be a crowd at my shop and the people would discuss the game, some aggressively too. It is good that a Test match will be held here after 2016.

"But the sad part is the crowd will not be allowed for the opening Test. I hope I get some patrons back when people are allowed to attend the second (Test)," he said.


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