BREATHTAKING. That’s the likely refrain of every first timer at the HPCA stadium here. The ground, with snow- capped ranges of Dhauladhar hills in the backdrop, bears an imposing yet gentle presence.
Every nook and corner has its own charm. The bright sunshine spreads like a canopy over the high- altitude venue and its warmth cuts the sharp chill in the air, which pervades over the hilly town, once the shadows lengthen.
‘ White mountains welcome you’ reads a banner, inviting the fans for the first One- day International ( ODI) at the venue. It is here that India and England teams have trooped in for a game of cricket. The series has been decided in India’s favour, but there were a lot of talks whether the last ODI would even happen, considering the inclement winter weather at the venue, located at a height of over 4,500 ft.
Most of the apprehensions, though, turned out to be unfounded. The sun shone with its might on Friday, and the forecast is expected to be the same for the next three days. It was the English camp who feared the worst here. Since the visitors played their first warm up match in Delhi on January 6, in a cold and foggy day, the fear of what was in store for them in Dharamsala began to emerge.
But once the reluctant visitors landed here on Thursday morning, the players, the support staff and the touring media, which in the last few days dispatched many reports of possible scrapping of the match, couldn’t help but being smitten by the beauty of the place.
In fact, England chose to skip the training session on Friday and ventured out for sightseeing. Locals said they were so charmed by the place that they went berserk clicking pictures the moment they landed at the Gaggal airport in Kangra.
On Friday, they visited a nearby waterfall and moved around McLeodganj, the abode of Dalai Lama, which is further up 8 km and where the two teams are staying.
“If you look at the events before yesterday there were a lot of rumours that it may snow and the match will be shifted. Some TV channel said it’s snowing here. But when I looked out of my window, it was bright and sunny.
The rumours have been doing the rounds since India played Pakistan in Delhi.
There is nothing to fear,” Anurag Thakur, president Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association, told MAIL TODAY . There is a lot of excitement among the locals who will get their first taste of an ODI cricket here, though Indian Premier League matches are being held regularly at the venue now.
Anurag, who has been pushing in the corridors of BCCI for the venue to get an ODI match, said he was expecting the capacity of 19,500 to be full.