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Channel surfing in Chennai

Posted in England in India 2008

The last ten days have been long ones for the England team, but nothing like the suffering that the Mumbai victims and their families have gone through. Indeed, that has been the overriding message from the likes of Kevin Pietersen and Alistair Cook in the pre-match press conferences building up to this first Test.

Now though, the focus has switched to cricket in the hope that it will bring some enjoyment and happiness to a nation brought up on the game.

The security at Chennai has been intense, to the extent that ECBtv had to do some serious negotiating just to get into the ground - even with a full press pass!

The irony of this is that every over or so some screech or blare of trumpets and drums erupts from the PA system - those are far more of a security threat I feel!

The first good news of the day is the weather. Blazing hot sun and a baked pitch refute the claims that a cyclone is heading towards the city. Not quite time to batton down the hatches then, and as England win the toss (the second piece of good news) with a little luck it could be the Indian team attempting to shut up shop in five days time.

To my left, the glass of the press box reveals about ten security personel eagerly surveying numerous television screens, another example of the security scenario here at the ground.

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ECBtv sampled some of the atmosphere on the first morning by taking a ride in a tuk-tuk

With regards to the screen in the press box, it seems to have a life of it's own as it randomly switches beween an Alistair Cook cover drive and a Bollywood movie. I am imagining some chap deep in the foundations of the ground channel surfing.

So, England will bat, and by the time you read this hopefully they'll still be at the crease with little damage.

With the score currently 25-0 and neither batsmen particularly troubled, MS Dhoni has introduced Harbhajan Singh into the attack as first change.

Already a victory for England's openers, and if they can build a solid platform which provides the basis of a large first innings score, then England's two spinners (Monty and debutant Graeme Swann) will take considerable encouragement from this.

Something is in the air here in Chennai, and no it's not the various aromas drifting through the stand (some good, some not so good). It's a feeling that England could well produce something special on this tour.

Free of the media pressure to some extent, free of the usual weight of expectation, and free perhaps of mental clutter which can result from being too submerged in preparation. England are now here to bring some enjoyment to the crowd and play some cricket - an approach which could serve them best.

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