December 14, 2016 1:01:21 am
Two days ago when officials of the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) followed the weather forecast they heard that Cyclone Vardah could make landfall near Chennai. The Chepauk’s chief curator Vasturyatun and his ground staff got down to work. The covers were laid across the length and breath of the ground -the venue for the fifth Test between India and England – and nails were hammered in to ensure that it didn’t blow off in the storm. Vasturyatun and his men stayed put at the Chepauk during the cyclone to ensure that minimum damage was caused to the field of play.
The vigil of the ground staff seems to have paid off as TNCA secretary Kasi Viswanath claimed on Tuesday that there was no ‘uncertainty over the Test match’.
“The wickets and ground are perfect. The pitches and outfield have been covered and those are in good shape. There has been some damage. Sightscreens have fallen down, bulbs from the floodlight towers have fallen down. Some gates have fallen, but those things we are clearing. We have been fixing the bulbs. Two towers we fixed today and the rest we will do tomorrow. We have two days, we should be alright. There’s no uncertainty over the Test,” Viswanathan told The Indian Express as the teams reached Chennai on Tuesday evening.
Even if it rains on Wednesday and Thursday, the eve of the game, chances are that play will be possible on Day One of the fifth Test. The Chepauk has an efficient drainage system, which was laid eight years ago.
“Even during the last year’s heavy downpour, we never had any water stagnation inside the stadium,” Viswanath added.
However, when the match starts it will be interesting to see how the wicket behaves. The surface has been unaffected, but dampness might be a problem. The pitch had been under wraps for the last few days. Asked if it could be a little tricky, Viswanathan replied in the affirmative. “Yes it might be, because of the moisture. But we still have two more days and the curator says the wicket still has bounce. Let’s see,” he said. Incidentally, Chepauk hasn’t hosted a Ranji Trophy fixture yet this term.
The last Test match held at this venue was the India versus Australia game in 2013. India had beaten Australia by eight wickets but the match went the distance. R Ashwin had returned with a 12-wicket match haul but Aussie quick James Pattinson too bagged a five-for in the first innings. A total of 1,243 runs had been scored in five days and 32 wickets fell. A sporting pitch with decent grip has been the norm at the MA Chidambaram Stadium and bounce, arguably steepest in the country, is its speciality. This time there is a possibility of the nature of the wicket being different.
Ticket sales hit
The Central government’s policy to scrap old Rs 500 and Rs 1,000 currency notes to some extent has affected the state association. “Demonetisation has affected us to a certain degree. See, we don’t sell the cheapest tickets, Rs 300, online at all. We only sell those through our counters. A total of 7,000 tickets are allotted in that category and normally the tickets get sold out within two-three hours after opening the counters. This time, however, we still have around 1,000 tickets left. Tickets are valued between Rs 300 and Rs 7,500 and we started selling tickets from November 29, via online and counters. Cards are accepted at the counters. As on date, tickets worth Rs 65 lakh have been sold,” Viswanath said.
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