Chennai cricket fans’ sportsmanship is again expected to shine through when India and England square up for the final Test starting on Friday, four days after a severe cyclone swept through the metro.
Two days after winds reaching 140 kph left the city looking like a warzone, fire brigade, civic personnel and citizens were busy clearing the roads of thousands of fallen trees.
Almost 48 hours after nature’s fury, power supply was yet to stabilise and mobile and internet connectivity was intermittent at best after an undersea cable was damaged.
The MA Chidambaram Stadium was lucky to escape nature’s wrath though it is barely 100 metres from the beach. “The pitch is in good condition and the ground will also be ready tomorrow (Thursday). We have also prepared the practice nets and hope there is no rain tonight,” said veteran curator Parthasarathy.
The groundsmen were busy preparing the pitch, and their removing grass didn’t come as a surprise at this spinners’ paradise where R. Ashwin took 13 wickets the last Test in 2013, which India won against Australia.
The only damage was to some chairs in the stands and the canvas roof of one of the three stands that can’t be opened to public as civic authorities haven’t given clearance due to not meeting building norms.
“We used charcoal on a tray to dry the pitches. We placed them on stumps so that they don’t come in direct contact with the pitch and blacken them,” said Parthasarathy.
Ticket sales brisk
Despite the calamity, disarray due to demonetisation, initial doubts over the match going ahead following the death of Tamil Nadu CM Jayalalithaa, as well as India wrapping up the series 3-0 in Mumbai, fans are expected to turn up in large numbers.
Tamil Nadu Cricket Association secretary KS Viswanathan said, “The ticket sales are very encouraging. We had started the sales on November 29, which has helped. Chennai fans are very sporting, and regardless of the cyclone, we expect them to turn up in large numbers.”
Fairplay in stands
Chennai fans are renowned for their sporting spirit. In the 1999 two-Test series against Pakistan, the first match was switched to the city after the Ferozeshah Kotla pitch was vandalised by members of a rightwing group.
After Sachin Tendulkar’s century went in vain and Pakistan snatched a narrow victory, Wasim Akram’s side was stunned by the standing ovation from the packed stands. The Pakistan players took out a victory lap in acknowledgement.
In 2008, it was again Chennai that staged the first Test against England, the visitors having returned to complete their tour following the deadly Mumbai blasts on 26/11.
It proved a classic affair after Virender Sehwag’s explosive knock on the fourth evening set it up and Tendulkar scored a century under pressure to help snatch a thrilling win.
The fans this time will have extra incentive. It’s not just skipper Virat Kohli who is in the form of his life, local boys Ashwin, with 27 wickets, and opening batsman M Vijay, with two centuries, too have been brilliant.