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Rain shadow looms over first Test

If it was Chennai it was time for strong filter coffee, blistering hot sunshine and auto rickshaw drivers who make loan sharks look like good Samaritans.

cricket Updated: Dec 09, 2008 22:40 IST
Anand Vasu

If it was Chennai it was time for strong filter coffee, blistering hot sunshine and auto rickshaw drivers who make loan sharks look like good Samaritans. If it was Chennai and cricket it was the MA Chidambaram Stadium with its knowledgeable crowds and long history of Test cricket from the famous tied Test to the emotional Pakistan match of 1999 when Sachin Tendulkar wept in the dressing-room after India lost a thriller. But more recently Chennai and cricket combination has taken on a less edifying connotation -- rain.

Over the last five years -- with the exception of the recent South Africa Test where Virender Sehwag blazed his way to a triple-hundred that observers rate as the best innings ever played on the ground -– the rain has arrived with unerring accuracy when a match has been scheduled here. Australia's Test (October 2004) was perfectly poised with India on 19/0 chasing 228 when the last day was washed out. In November 2005 the South Africa ODI was abandoned without a ball being bowled. Sri Lanka's Test (Dec 2005) had the first three days washed out. Why, even the Challenger Series final in October 2006 ended abruptly.

And as scheduled practice was disrupted on Tuesday with rain and a cyclone warning dampening spirits, the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association was cross with worry over how the next few days would pan out.

With the match shifted to Chennai from Ahmedabad at the last minute, there was enough work on hand for the staff at Chepauk. Fortunately for them the pitch was ready anyhow, with one leg of the cancelled Champions League originally scheduled to take place in Chennai.

If rain does play spoilsport it will be a huge shame for England have made the strong, and ultimately correct, decision to return to India to resume their tour after the Mumbai terror attacks put things in serious doubt. Had England refused to return, few would have held it against them, but the fact that they are coming has been welcomed in all quarters.

England, who flew back home after the fifth ODI then tentatively returned towards the subcontinent, basing themselves in Abu Dhabi for some practice. Amazingly, even there England were stopped in their tracks by rain, and were forced to stay indoors on one of their practice days.

In Tamil Nadu, where rain is thought to be a positive thing, there is an old saying: it rains where there are good people. That it puts a stop to the good game being played, is another matter altogether.