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Chennai roots for festive cheer

For its rich legacy and following, Indian cricket does not have a fixed Test season to boast of like England and Australia. MVL Manikantan reports.

cricket Updated: Feb 26, 2013 23:58 IST
MVL Manikantan

For its rich legacy and following, Indian cricket does not have a fixed Test season to boast of like England and Australia. A Test is scheduled by default every year on Boxing Day (December 26) at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and in South Africa, if the team is not on tour.

There was one such tradition that was part of Indian cricket - the 'Pongal Test' hosted in then Madras.

An almost forgotten occasion today, the January Test used to be played during the four-day holiday period to mark Tamil Nadu's harvest festival.

Thirteen such Tests were hosted between 1960 and 1988, four at the Corporation Ground - now the Nehru stadium which stages football and athletics. Others were played at Chepauk.

Australia played the first Pongal Test and West Indies in 1988 the last.

Perfect Timing
"The Chennai weather is the best around that time and offices, schools and colleges remain closed. That was why they used to play the Test during that time," said V Ramnarayan, a former Ranji off-spinner and cricket historian.

"This tradition should definitely be revived. People from all over the state used to throng the stadium. It would be packed for all five days with the sporting crowd."

During the England series, cricket board president, N Srinivasan, told a website spoke about plans to earmark a fixed home cricket season.

The prime season
"We're starting to look at and define our prime season, and during your prime season you should be playing at home. This is something we are conscious of," he said.

But the venue rotation policy and a packed international calendar made it hard for the tradition to be revived, he said on Tuesday.

"That was many, many years ago. Now it all depends on the FTP (Future Tours Programme). And in the old days there were only five Test centres. Now it all depends on the rotation," Srinivasan said.