By: Satyakam Bharti
Small-town cricket is finally set to take centrestage with Dharamsala being confirmed to host a couple of IPL matches. Cricket has been an urban phenomenon in India ^ not because it is played less in crowded allays of urban slums or rural maidans ^ simply because the game still carries its elitist past. The great divide that separates urban Indian from rural India is visible enough in cricket as well and therefore when a small-town player gets into the blue robes it calls for celebrations. Similarly, the fact that the near-village Dharamsala today boasts of an international cricketing venue is no less a miracle.
Several factors may have contributed towards the rise of Dharamsala as a cricket-playing venue, but there’s no denying the fact that cricket would certainly breath easy in the open environs of the hill town, better known to be the abode of Dalai Lama, a spiritual leader much revered world over. The town is getting a chance not because IPL officials are convinced it is an ideal venue, but because there is no other option with them. The deadlock over providing security cover at IPL venues has resulted in Dharamsala getting to host matches, but it also offers an opportunity to reclaim cricket as a game. The recent terror attack on the Sri Lankan team has nearly given a death blow to international cricket in the subcontinent, therefore the people who manage the game here need to understand that the urban fear psychosis regarding terror should not come in the way of the game and therefore it becomes important to take cricket to small towns where people can still think of enjoying the game without bothering about a bomb going off behind them. So precautionary measures apart, the organisers need not really worry about the security aspect while in Dharamsala.
Undoubtedly, the HPCA stadium in Dharamsala is among the most beautiful cricketing venues in the world, as has been stated by cricketers who have visited the place earlier, so it may be actually that the people who run the game may actually have thought of created a heaven for themselves, a time-out venue to enjoy their holidays. Or it won’t be wrong to state that it is a win-win situation for all and therefore it’s a reality today.
HPCA has nearly surfaced out of nowhere to raise this world-class stadium within a short span of time. Credit should definitely go to the HPCA president for that, but it could certainly not have been possible without politics being at play.
It’s no secret that hosting IPL matches for the first time could be used as a poll plank by party that controls HPCA, which also happens to be ruling party in the state with HPCA president Anurag Thakur himself contesting the forthcoming Parliamentary polls. That the BJP government in the state was too keen to get matches to Dharamsala from the very beginning, even though other states expressed inability to provide security, appears a calculated move to add some arsenal to Dhumal Junior’s poll campaigning.
Whatever factors may have worked behind the scene, the fact remains that cricket itself would gain from it and Dharamsala is ready to make a mark as a sporting venue as well, having already gained popularity as a spiritual melting pot.