Around 10,000 watched at stadium that can hold close to 37,000

The crowd response on the opening day of the first Test between India and Australia here, on Friday, was ordinary.

Only around 10,000 people watched the proceedings at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium that can hold close to 37,000 spectators.

The below average turn-out was surprising in a very traditional venue that has witnessed some of the finest tests in cricketing history. Given that the last Test here was held back in 2008 against England — Sachin Tendulkar clinched that match for India in the fourth innings with a stirring 103 not out — many expected a bigger audience.

A Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA) official said, “The coming school exams, including those for classes X and XII, are one of the main reasons. If the children are pre-occupied with studies and preparations, the parents too stay away.”

The tickets had been priced in a very fair manner, he said. “The season tickets for the ‘A’, `B’ and ‘C’ lower stands are just Rs. 200, and that comes to less than Rs. 50 a day. And a ‘C’ upper ticket costs just Rs. 400 for five days.”

There is hope that the Test will attract larger crowds on Saturday and Sunday when the Indian team bats. Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Mahendra Singh Dhoni could be on view on those days.

Test cricket, the premier form of the game, is still widely followed in the country, on television and internet, but, given the duration of the matches and being pressed for time, fewer fans are journeying to the ground.

Off-spinner Harbhajan Singh, playing his 100th Test here, would remember the tense final day of that dramatic 2001 series at Chepauk where he guided India to a thrilling 2-1 series win over Steve Waugh’s Australians. Not a seat was available in the stands then.

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