India vs England: No fans, no media for Chepauk Tests

With the ECB requesting the BCCI to have a closed-door series, there will be no spectators or media for the two Tests in Chennai starting February 5.

A glimpse of the India-England Test in 2016 at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai.   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

With England sweeping the Test series 2-0 against Sri Lanka at Galle, all eyes are on M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, the venue for the first two Tests of the four-match series against India.

And the news is not good, at least for the fans and the press contingent. With the ECB making a request of no spectators and no media to the BCCI, they will have to follow the Tests on television.

“The Board CEO Hemang Amin had told me that there would be no spectators or media for the Tests and we are going ahead with our preparations assuming that is the situation since nothing has changed,” TNCA secretary R.S. Ramasaamy confirmed the development to Sportstar on Monday.

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With the first of the two Tests in Chennai beginning on February 5, it is too late for the TNCA and the BCCI to make arrangements for the spectators and the media in any case.

Ramasaamy said the English players would arrive here on January 27; Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and a few others among the support staff have reached Chennai on Sunday. The Indian players are supposed to arrive in batches on January 27.

As soon as the Indian and the English cricketers arrive, they will have to undergo a COVID-19 test. “Subsequently, they would be tested every three days,” said Ramasaamy. The practice sessions will start from February 1.

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As a precautionary measure, the BCCI has booked the entire Leela Palace Hotel for the cricketers of both the teams, the support staff and the match officials.

Ramasaamy said, “Even the security personnel at the hotel will have to be in the bubble.”

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Only the official broadcaster will be allowed access to the ground. The television crew will be put up in a single floor at Hotel ITC Grand Chola in a bio-bubble.

There will be three zones. The first including players, support staff, match officials, and the television crew who will have access to the ground. The second zone will comprise the TNCA officials and organisers, who will not be allowed entry. Zone 3 will have police officials to guard the stadium from outside. They will not be permitted to enter the arena.

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The pitch for the Test is in the news for its healthy grass cover. Curator V. Ramesh Kumar said, “The weather was good and there were no matches, so, despite the challenges, we had the time and space to prepare a good sporting pitch.”

Eventually, how much grass remains on the track will depend on the Indian captain and coach.