Cricket could only have added to the beauty of this place. And it really did. In fact, if the already-in-news town of Dharamsala was honoured to host the four-day match between the two top teams from India and Pakistan at the HPCA stadium, the match itself turned special to have been played at this venue. To justify the statement, we can say that it’s a different ball game out there. Precisely speaking, cricket has been taken to new heights in India, that is Dharamshala, and probably also closer to its English charm.
The match at least allayed fears of the rain god, who supposedly reigns in his terror on this rock-faced multi-cultured town. It did not rain this time, thus silencing skeptics who questioned the existence of a cricket ground at one of the wettest places on earth. (And what a misnomer even that is – anyone heard of global warming). The best can be said about the place is that the Balmy Army would love to be saunter in the balmy air that flows down the river that gurgles past the stadium. That’s some competition for the St Lawrence Stadium in Canterbury I suppose.
So some Australian couple who happened to watch the match compared it to MCG, some others have found it better than the Newlands Cricket Ground in South Africa, still others say the Kiwis would envy the majestic backdrop if they happen to play here. The real issue though is not the landscape, which undoubtly is simply majestic here with the mighty Dhauladhars providing the sidescrean.
The HPCA stadium has in fact more to offer in terms of the changing image of cricket. If India can invest in the Caribbeans to build a world-class cricket stadium there, Dharamsala rightfully deserved one to prove BCCI’s policy of taking cricket to small-town India. But Dharamsala is no ordinary small town with its cosmo image proving too strong to let any single obsession grip its citizens. Perhaps the resident Israeli population here can forget their worried homeland for a day or the Thai monks in yellow can have a good break from their spiritual tour. Those in love with the acclivity of the Dhauladhars too can take some time off to appreciate their effort from the safe distance of the stadium.
And all this while cricket faces still competition from soccer. There is every possibility that a football may roll down from the college ground where some Tibetan students, realising their inability to pitch a ball on the right spot, may be rubbing shoulders on the football field. The dipping football anyway may not be an irritant for the pace brigade trying their hand at reverse swing, taking full advantage of the rustling pines that promise to be neutral cheer leaders.
The purists moan lack of infrastructure, read wining and dining facilities, but isn’t that injustice to the small-town image of the place, were everything thrives in miniature form, nevertheless in perfect taste. What about pitching in the open, the rave way, already made famous by visitors.
Now, that’s packaged cricket. So do think of fishing out balls that clear the stadium right down into the stream. That’s just a hint what adventure cricket can be. Any takers! Dharamsala is game.