Varun Shetty is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
The second India-England Test in Chennai will not be played behind closed doors as the BCCI has informally given permission to the Tamil Nadu Cricket Assocation (TNCA) to open its gates for spectators, up to a 50% capacity. The I,J, and K stands of the MA Chidambaram Stadium will likely be opened to public, pending Tamil Nadu government clearance, for the second Test starting February 13. The ticket details and standard operating procedures for crowds will be released when formal approval arrives.
The development came in the wake of the Indian government revising its guidelines pertaining to spectators at outdoor sport in the country last weekend. "For outdoor sports events spectators will be allowed to full seating capacity," was what Indian ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports said in a circular updated on January 29. The circular, titled 'Standard Operating Procedures for opening up of Stadia for sports events', revised the ministry's previous guidelines issued on December 26 which had stated spectators can be allowed at 50% capacity for outdoor sports.*
It is understood that TNCA had approached the BCCI to allow fans up 50% of the ground's capacity during the second Test. Media personnel are also likely to be allowed at the stadium, albeit from the first Test itself, should the BCCI approve these measures formally. Neither spectators nor media personnel were allowed at the seven venues where India's only domestic tournament so far this season - the recent Syed Mushtaq Ali T20 Trophy - was held.
If spectators are indeed allowed, it would signal a change in course for both the BCCI and the TNCA, who had recently informed its members that the MA Chidambaram Stadium would not allow crowds for the two Tests.
Nothing official has been communicated on the subject yet. "We are not going to comment on speculation. We are still waiting to hear from the BCCI in terms of their protocols for the forthcoming Test series," a representative of the England touring party said.
Meanwhile, all members of the India and England Test squads have returned negative Covid-19 tests and have been cleared to exit their bio-secure bubbles for training in the lead up to the first Test, which starts February 5. The two teams had been in mandatory six-day quarantines after arriving in Chennai. While England will train, as per schedule, from Tuesday afternoon, India will begin their preparations on Monday evening. A team statement on Monday confirmed: "The Indian Cricket Team completed their quarantine period today in Chennai. Three RT-PCR tests for Covid-19 were conducted at regular intervals and all tests have returned negative results. The team will have their first outdoor session today from 5:00 PM and nets sessions will begin from tomorrow."
*0528 GMT This paragraph was amended to include the January 29 circular. It previously mentioned only the December 26 one.