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Saturday, January 1, 2022

famous Chepauk stadium to get a new face-lift

What connects Jaya Sharma & Suzie Bates ???  Automobile Products of India (API) was founded   Bombay by the British company Rootes Group, and later bought over by  a Madras doyen.   The company manufactured Lambretta scooters, API Three Wheelers under license from Innocenti of Italy. The manufacturing facilities were located in Mumbai and Aurangabad in Maharashtra and in Ambattur, Chennai.  Sadly the  company has not been operational since 2002.   This is a true Cricket post and the founder of Scooter company was an Industrialist associated with the famous SPIC too, and was the Mayor of Madras in 1955.


In 1859, Madras Presidency acquired Chepauk palace in an auction – a few years later obtained Govt permission to build pavilion at the palace grounds to Madras Cricket Club. The pavilion was reconstructed in 1892[8] and was utilized till 1982 when it was demolished as part of the stadium renovation.  Understand that a couple years ago, the lease period of the stadium was extended by the Tamil Nadu government for 21 years from 2015. The infrastructure is centuries old and the first match of the Ranji Trophy was held on 4 November 1934 between Madras and Mysore at Chepauk. MJ Gopalan  bowled the first ball to N Curtis. 

Have experienced this at Chepauk .. .. most of us would get into the stadium early morning 3 or even 4 hours before the match.  In the morning, some players would come and warm-up – we would get delighted when Indian players wave to the spectators. Toss would make us go bonkers on the various possibilities. Then silence would descend .. .. a few minutes before the scheduled start, suddenly D stand would come alive – for they would have spotted the Umpires walking inside the pavilion with their hats !  .. .. .. and rest of the stadium would start cheering. Fielding Captain would enter the field, most likely their fast bowler would run in, take a few measures from the stumps marking their line-up; meantime the Openers would spring in (if it is Krish Cheeka – he would walk to the right side of his partner, staring at the Sun and chanting Aditya Hridayam !)  .. those were the days, when the huge rotund pillars would hide the view and one had to search for good seats .. .. much water has flowed and much has changed since. 

Chepauk stadium …  MA Chidambaram stadium to be precise.  We have seen so many first division matches, local tournaments, Buchibabu, Ranji, Duleep, Deodhar trophy matches and then Tests (Pongal Tests !) ..  Test No. 708 – India won by 4 wickets against England;  Test No. 752 ever remembered by that classy knock of Vishwanath; great bowling of Andy Roberts and the defeat (100 runs at that) suffered by Clive Lloyd against Pataudi led Indians in 1975; Test no. 841 Kalicharran led WI lost to Gavaskar captained India in 1979; Test no. 869 – grand Indian win against Pakistan in 1980 – Kapil Dev Man of the Match, SandipPatil made his debut;  Test no. 1089 Vivian Richards led WI lost badly (255 runs) to Ravi Shastri led Indians – Hirwant made dream debut taking 16 wickets – WV Raman and Ajay Sharma also made their debuts….  

                  ~ all Indian wins …. Not the only link… all Chepauk tests… and more importantly the Pongal Tests !!!...............  the ground at Chepauk has been in existence from imperial days – the first ever test here was in 1933-34 when Douglas Jardine played CkNayudu led team.  Crowds have always come in large numbers  ~ it is not only the numbers – they are reputed to be most knowledgeable and appreciative.. but the high rise dividers, barbed fence gave us a  different feeling.  In 1970s – remember that the stadium had double-layered fencing – separating the spectators from the playing arena.  Yet, when an Indian scores a century, a couple of people would scale the fence, get down, run, reach the player to congratulate them on their performance. 

Chepauk those days was spacious – the B & C stands had no chairs;  spectators used to carry bedsheets along squatting on the huge concrete steps much earlier before the game started.  The stadium had huge pillars, round in shape – so huge that perhaps it would require four persons holding hands to round them.  They were the  impediments too as they would hide the view on some angles from the place one sat.  Sadly, there are not many Tests or ODIs being played here and crowds have started dwindling – Ranji trophy matches are played to empty stands.


M. A. Chidambaram Stadium, commonly known as the Chepauk Stadium, is named after businessman, industrialist, Cricket administrator – Muthiah Annamalai Chidambaram Chettiar (1918-2000) 

The first Test century scored at the ground was by the Englishman Cyril Walters.  Virender Sehwag holds the record for the highest score at the ground, 319 from 304 balls, which was made in 2008 against South Africa.  Sachin Tendulkar has scored  5 Test centuries at the ground. A century in each innings of a match has been achieved twice at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium.   Duleep Mendis made   105 in each innings  against India in 1982 and the Englishman Andrew Strauss scored 123 and 108 in 2008.  Mahendra Singh Dhoni scored 224 in the 1st test against Australia  - Karun Nair made a triple century and the recent century was scored by Ravichandran Ashwin against England in Feb 2021. 14 ODI centuries have been made at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium. The first of these was scored by the Australian Geoff Marsh in Reliance Cup 1987.Saeed Anwar holds the record for the highest ODI scored at the ground with 194, from 146 deliveries against India in 1997. 

Jaya Sharma and Suzie Bates have scored centuries in Women’s ODIs at Chepauk. 

MA Chidambaram became the Vice-President of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) in India in 1956, President from 1960–61 to 1962-63 and treasurer for about twenty years. He was the head of Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) for 32 years. He was also the President of All India Lawn Tennis Association from 1963 to 1966. He played a significant role in the negotiations between the TNCA and the Madras Cricket Club over the construction of a stadium on the club's ground in Chepauk. Completed in 1980, this stadium was later named M. A. Chidambaram Stadium in his honour. He was also an honorary life member of MCC, the Marylebone Cricket Club. 

Now the stadium is undergoing another facelift with the pavilion portion having been demolished totally – sooner, there would be newer infrastructure – whether, it would enliven the feelings of Cricket fans, in the manner it used to during those Pongal days would remain a big Q!

An avid fan- S. Sampathkumar
25th Dec 2021. 

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