Test cricket in Chennai has always been fascinating. Whether it was Sehwag’s blitzkrieg 319 in a drawn test, the record 4th innings chase against England, Harbhajan’s 15 wicket match haul against Australia or the most recent double century by Dhoni in 2013, there have always been reasons to look forward to and enjoy a game at the Chepauk Stadium. After a three year hiatus, Test cricket returned and despite residing in Bangalore, I couldn’t afford to miss this game.
An unplanned and sudden decision to go to the game on Saturday morning resulted in my friend and I staring at notices that said “Sold Out” outside the ticket counters (this in spite of a lot of seats being vacant inside due to many ‘complimentary member passes’ not being used), and we had to make a couple of phone calls and trips to the other parts of the city to grab day passes from another friend. As a result, we could enter the stadium only post lunch and the seats weren’t of great view. What we got though, was some aggressive, young, vocal Indian supporters, in addition to some English fans, part of the “Barmy Army” sunbathing shirtless in the intense Tropical heat of the southern metropolis.
It was a good day for the English batsmen, who put up 477 on a pitch that was as hard as concrete. When it was their turn to field, the crowd in our stand took to Jos Buttler, the England player fielding at the deep end nearby. Shouts of “we want Buttler!” whenever his position was changed by the captain or when he went infield became common. At one stage, the crowd started copying his actions on field. When he clapped, the crowd clapped with him. When he kept his hand on his head, the crowd went “Oooooh” and did the same. It would be an understatement to say that Buttler enjoyed it. Towards the end, he became the conductor and kept doing the hand-over-head action which the crowd promptly followed and applauded the crowd which resulted in rapturous response.
Sunday was different, as we managed to get tickets early through another source, close to the Board. This meant seats that were more expensive, and naturally a crowd that was more disciplined and orderly. While we could focus on the nuances of the game, technique of the batsmen and strategy (or the lack of) of the fielding captain, we missed the thrill of noisy fans and travelling English fans to chat with, especially when their team was clearly taking the beating. The knowledgeable full house Chepauk crowd, regardless of the three closed stands due to litigation, was noisy as ever, with Mexican waves and encouraging applause with two local boys Ashwin and Vijay in the Indian team to fuel them.
End of the day, India was in a commanding position thanks to the swashbuckling 199 by KL Rahul and the England team and fans would be hoping that the only thing they would look forward to at the end of the tour isn’t the flight back home. For me, my streak of not missing a single Chennai test match since 2001 continued.
(At the time of writing this, I got to know Karun Nair has smashed a triple ton. Chennai and triple centuries – Definitely a better love story than Twilight)
Catch a glimpse of Buttler and the crowd here: