Dharamsala, Jan. 26 -- All week, as they prepared and played the fourth one-dayer in Mohali, England players fielded questions from their travelling media on how they had planned to avoid the trip to this Himachal Pradesh hill station for the final game.
Although organisers were confident the weather would hold, skipper Alastair Cook was even asked whether he had apprehensions taking the short flight from Chandigarh to Kangra, near Dharamsala.
It was all based on the assumption that the venue had received heavy snowfall and would be in no shape to hold a game. But since they landed on Thursday to play in the first ODI to be staged at this venue - at around 1320m, the highest international cricket venue in the world - the England players have been raving about its scenic beauty.
The warm sunshine during the day and clear weather has only further lifted the mood of both the teams ahead of the fifth and final ODI, to be played on Sunday. On Friday, India players were at the ground for a session of football with the snow-capped Dhauladhar ranges glistening in the background.
Skipper MS Dhoni, who was nursing a thumb injury in Mohali, had said he would take a call on whether to play in the inconsequential match with India holding an unassailable 3-1 lead.
"There are some reports still being run that it is snowing here," joked Anurag Thakur, president of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association. He explained how the state body has planted two different types of grass, one to withstand the summer and another the winter.
England players, on arrival at the team hotel, spent a lot of time clicking pictures of the mountains. However, their one big wish would remain unfulfilled this time. They had hoped for an audience with the Dalai Lama on Friday, but the Tibetan spiritual leader is on a 'religious retreat', when he meets only his close aides. Thus, they had to be satisfied with a visit to the Buddhist temple at McLeodganj.
However, the organisers are not leaving anything to chance as far as the weather is concerned. On Thursday, senior state cricket officials prayed at the Indrunag temple, seeking the local weather deity's blessings to ensure the match goes off smoothly. For the record, bright sunshine is forecast for Saturday and a cloudy Sunday afternoon. The match is due to start at 9 am.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.