The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association stadium atop the looping roads was busy getting painted red even as the Indian cricket team, oblivious of the surroundings, engaged itself in a game of football.
The compelling charm of the picturesque venue, nestled between snow-lathered ranges, was not lost on many others, including the touring English media, whose cameras reeled of a series of flashes to capture the beauty.
Even the England team decided to skip the practice and went sight seeing at McLeodganj, including the nearby waterfall. Under bright sunshine, their fears vapourised. “In fact, it is not the Indian team that looked mesmerised but the English team whose cameras just wouldn’t stop clicking,” HPCA president Anurag Thakur smiled.
The 19,500 capacity ground, that has hosted a few Indian Premier League matches before, would be hosting its first One-day International and the authorities have worked on the details. “There are two practice areas which include 24 practice pitches. There is an indoor facility with six practice pitches and a rehabilitation centre and a gymnasium facility with suana, steam, spa everything so that the players can get everything at one venue,” Thakur said.
“We have planted new winter grass which can sustain extreme cold conditions. We laid the grass in October and it took two months to grow. It will be green even in extreme winters. We can practically cover 100 per cent of the ground if it rains within 10-15 mins.
We have got light covers specially for ODIs. We did not want to take any chance with the rain. We will be able to cover it fast and remove it fast,” he said.
The response of the people too have been encouraging. “We expect a full house barring few high end tickets. Being a small town it’s unlikely the VVIPS and club lounge would be full.”
The authorities are also trying to arrange a meeting of the players with Dalai Lama, who arrived here on Friday. Curator Sunil Chauhan called the pitch a sporting one and predicted a high scoring match. “There will be good carry for the bowlers. We got the seeds of the winter grass from New Zealand to keep the outfield lush. It can withstand extreme temperature variations.”