Despite Himachal Pradesh and Delhi having qualified for the knockout stage of the Vijay Hazare Trophy, the last round of the contest won’t be bereft of interest. It will decide which of the two will qualify as the top team.
Himachal are ahead of Delhi, but need to beat Punjab to retain the top spot, as Delhi’s win against Services is more or less certain. Qualifying as the top or the second team won’t make much of a difference, but upstaging a team like Delhi would be a big milestone in Himachal’s journey towards becoming a force to reckon with in domestic cricket.
“We’ve beaten Delhi and now have a chance to go into the knockout stage as North Zone champions, which is obviously a huge step forward us. Besides, we also made it to the Super League in the Ranji Trophy this year. I can say our graph is going up rapidly,” said Himachal coach Rajdeep Kalsi.
The feat is praiseworthy, for Himachal were amongst the favourite whipping boys in the North Zone along with Jammu and Kashmir and Services till a couple of years back. While J&K and Services haven’t made noticeable progress, Himachal have turned around things. The major reason is infrastructure, which was non-existent till a few years back. Apart from the Dharamsala stadium, which is the main centre, the association is also planning to create facilities in various districts for aspiring cricketers.
“Apart from the Dharamsala stadium, we have a ground ready in Naduan. Besides, we plan to build 12 grounds across the state. We have already requested the government to provide us with land at minimal rates and we will spend about three to four crores on each ground,” Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) spokesperson Sanjay Sharma said.
“Other than that, we are also running a residential academy for about 30 cricketers at the Dharamsala stadium. We are taking care of their boarding, lodging and educational requirements and the results will start coming in very soon,” he said.
Intra-state cricket too has got a boost with the regular inter-district tournaments in all age groups. “We organise limited-overs as well as two and three-day matches. Now, we are strengthening school and club cricket,” said the spokesman.
As recent results show, cricket in Himachal is on the right track. But there is still a long way to go before it reaches its destination. As they say, the march has just begun.