England tour of India: Chennai, Ahmedabad to host Tests; ODIs to be held in Pune
Ahmedabad is also scheduled to host the five-match T20I series
Chennai and Ahmedabad will play hosts for India's upcoming four-Test series against England. The first two Tests will be played in Chennai (February 5-9 and February 13-17), with the newly refurbished Motera stadium hosting the next two matches, including the day-night Test from February 24.
Ahmedabad will also host the five-match T20I series between March 12 and 20, right after the Test leg of the tour. It is currently unclear whether the matches will be played behind closed doors, or with fans allowed in.
England will land in Chennai on January 27, a day after finishing their Test tour of Sri Lanka, which is scheduled to be played behind closed doors in Galle.
ESPNcricinfo understands that along with Ahmedabad and Chennai, the BCCI had discussed Mohali as a potential venue for the Test series, which will be the last assignment for both India and England in the inaugural cycle of the World Test Championship. Ultimately Chennai got preference over Mohali because of its proximity to Sri Lanka (roughly an hour-long flight from Colombo), as well as the surface at Chepauk which is thought to be better suited to the Indian bowling attack.
Ahmedabad, meanwhile, was chosen mainly because it has not hosted an international match for nearly six years and also happens to be the home base for Jay Shah, the BCCI secretary.
The last international match played at Motera was the second match of the ODI series against Sri Lanka, in November 2014. The last domestic match was an IPL game in 2015 which Royal Challengers Bangalore won against hosts Rajasthan Royals.
The refurbished stadium at Motera, inaugurated in February by outgoing USA president Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, can accommodate 110,000 spectators, making it the biggest-capacity cricket ground in the world.
The newly laid ground has 11 pitches. It is understood the Gujarat Cricket Association will organise at least one unofficial match contested between Gujarat's domestic players ahead of the Test series.
In a media release issued on Thursdsay to announce the itinerary, the BCCI said they had "restricted" the England tour to just three venues as a consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic.
No word on fans at the games
The BCCI did not make any reference to whether fans would be allowed at the stadium in its release. But administrators are optimistic that crowds could come based on directions from the Indian government. Despite resuming normal life after two long national lockdowns India continues to be enveloped by the pandemic. The number of cases, according to the the US-based John Hopkins University of Medicine, are creeping to the 10-million mark (historical), which puts India only behind the US. At the moment, India has recorded over 141,000 deaths.
However, the emergence of vaccines globally has provided a ray of hope. The Indian government has set up an expert panel to authorize clinical trials conducted by three firms which are in advanced stages of creating a Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use in the country.
With or without crowds, the England tour is the first international cricket that will be played in India since March, when South Africa had to abort their limited-overs tour midway and return home due to the pandemic.
"The BCCI prioritises the health and safety of both teams and will leave no stone unturned to make sure that the tour is held adhering to all safety protocols agreed by the BCCI and ECB medical teams," Shah said.
Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive officer, said he was satisfied with the BCCI's planning to create a biosecure environment for the marquee series.
"International cricket between India and England is a highlight of the cricketing calendar and always attracts significant levels of interest from fans around the world," Harrison said.
"We have been delighted with the planning that has been undertaken by the BCCI to ensure the three venues in Chennai, Ahmedabad and Pune will be ready to host international cricket in a bio-secure environment and look forward to working closely with them over the coming weeks to finalise those plans."
Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo