The England cricket team’s upcoming tour of India could take place with a significant number of fans in stadiums after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) said it would be prepared to open grounds at 50% capacity.

England is due to play four Test matches against India in February and March. The first two Tests will be held at the M.A. Chidambaram Stadium in Chennai, with the third and fourth matches to take place at the newly renovated Motera Stadium in Ahmedabad.

The 50,000-seat M.A. Chidambaram Stadium (pictured), which is also known as the Chepauk stadium, is owned and operated by the Tamil Nadu Cricket Association (TNCA). The state body has previously suggested that no fans would be allowed at the stadium for the upcoming Test matches but officials appear to be changing course after observing how stadiums in Australia were able to open with fans during India’s recent Test series in the country.

The 50% capacity limit would allow up to 25,000 fans to attend matches in Chennai, while around 50,000 could potentially attend the Tests at Motera Stadium, which opened last year and has a capacity of 110,000 – larger than any cricket venue in the world. Motera Stadium is operated by the Gujarat Cricket Association (GCA).

A senior source at the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCC) told the PTI news agency: “As of now, we are likely to allow 50% spectators for the four Test matches. The BCCI is in talks with both state cricket associations (TNCA and GCA) and also state health authorities.”

The capacity limit is subject to change depending on COVID-19 infection rates and the source added: “If you allow 50% crowd with all necessary precautions, then it will be an indicator if we can also allow spectators during the IPL (Indian Premier League) in India.”

It remains to be seen whether this year’s IPL will be held in India or the United Arab Emirates, which hosted the 2020 edition. The UAE stepped in to host due to the COVID-19 situation in India, with matches held in Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi.

India’s tour of Australia concluded earlier this week at The Gabba in Brisbane, where around 20,000 fans were allowed each day after a 50% capacity limit was approved. The Sydney Cricket Ground operated at 25% capacity for its Test, while the 100,000-seat Melbourne Cricket Ground and the 55,000-capacity Adelaide Oval were able to welcome 30,000 fans and 27,000 fans, respectively.

England’s first Test match against India begins on February 5.

Image: Aravind Sivaraj/CC BY-SA 3.0/Edited for size