The craze for seeing their favourite cricket stars play live has sent excitement soaring in the quiet hill town of Dharamsala.
As Team India reached here for the upcoming Nelson Mandela-Mahatma Gandhi series against South Africa, fans made a beeline at the Gaggal airport to give them a warm welcome. The series comprises three T20 internationals, five One Day Internationals and four Test matches. The first T20 tie will be played at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) stadium on October 2, on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
The Indian squad has arrived two days before schedule, to get battle ready in a boot camp for the series against the Proteas. Led by MS Dhoni and director of cricket operations Ravi Shastri, the team arrived at Dharamsala by a charter flight at 11am and headed straight to the HPCA’s five-star resort, “The Pavilion”. After a brief rest, it gathered at the stadium and sweated out in a four-hour training session.
HPCA spokesperson Sanjay Sharma said the team would undergo intensive high-altitude training during the two-day boot camp that would include obstacle courses, high-altitude trekking, and barrier courses. He said preparations for the first T20, which is also the opening game of the series, were complete.
The Kangra district police have made elaborate security for the India-South Africa T20, and deployed 1,200 personnel in the hill town, in nine sectors around the stadium, besides a separate ring around the players’ hotel. For managing traffic on the match day, they have another nearly 200 cops.
Located at an altitude of 4,000 feet above the sea level, the Dharamsala stadium with sprawling tea gardens in the surroundings and the mighty Dhauladhar Ranges in the backdrop is one of the most beautiful cricket venues in the world. This picturesque Himalayan hill station has lured hundreds of thousands of Western visitors since Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama settled here in 1960.
The first ODI here was between India and England in January 27, 2013. It was a regular Indian Premier League (IPL) venue until 2013 before its governing body got locked in a battle with the state government and lost out on hosting the commercial league for two seasons.