India v England, 1st Test, Chennai December 9, 2008

Cyclone scare looms over Chennai Test

Cricinfo staff

The England players headed back to the dressing room after the nets session at the MA Chidambaram Stadium was cut short due to rain © AFP

The first Test between India and England in Chennai, starting on Thursday, faces the strong possibility of rain disruptions and the fallout from a weakened cyclone over the state of Tamil Nadu over the next few days.

England arrived in Chennai on Monday to resume their tour of India but the team could be denied adequate practice if the rain persists in the city. Showers early this morning flooded the outfield at the MA Chidambaram Stadium and the Indians were forced to remain indoors. England are due to train later in the day but that may also be affected.

The official website of the Indian Meteorological Department has predicted thunderstorms with rain in Chennai on Wednesday and Thursday, suggesting that at least the first day of the Test could be affected. On Sunday, it said a depression over the Bay of Bengal had moved further westwards towards the Tamil Nadu coast but had weakened.

However, other weather sites are more optimistic - CNN has predicted showers only from Saturday.

"For the next 48 hours, there could be one or two spells of rain and cloudy weather will prevail due to activity of the North-East monsoon over Tamil Nadu," SR Ramanan, the Meteorological Centre regional director, told PTI. "There is no alert of low pressure or depression in the Bay of Bengal. This is only a normal monsoon activity. Gradual reduction of rainfall is expected from Thursday."

The weather will doubtless affect the pitch as well. The rainfall over the past month has complicated matters for the head groundsman, K Parthasarathy. "We need bright sunshine to prepare a good wicket but there has been a lot of rain," Parthasarathy was quoted as saying in the local newspapers.

The Test was originally scheduled for Mumbai but the terror attacks in the city and fears of player security prompted a complete overhaul of the venues for the Tests. England returned home midway through the one-day series after the terror strikes and while negotiations were on between the respective cricket boards to resume the tour, the players trained in Abu Dhabi. Unfortunately, rain disrupted their preparations for a day last week.

Chennai has had a history of washouts and rain-affected draws since 2003. Tests against Australia and Sri Lanka were drawn and a one-dayer with South Africa in 2005 was abandoned without a ball being bowled. The Challenger Trophy final the following year was also affected and the teams had to share the trophy.