A sunny Saturday warmed up the hearts of cricket lovers in Dharamsala a day ahead of the fifth and final one-day international (ODI) between India and England.
"What a warm winter morning!" Jack Smith, an Englishman, told IANS here. "While the snow on surrounding mountains gives an impression that it is chilly, the weather is quite tolerable and fit for the game," he added.
The weather office in Shimla said Dharamsala saw a low of 5.2°C on Saturday, whereas the day's temperature was comparatively warm at 18.6°C. Another Briton, Mark Wilson, said he had been apprehensive about the chill. "We were told that it snowed in the hills (of Dharamsala) last week. I carried extra woollens but here the sun is smiling at you," he said. Cricket fans were in a dilemma after former England captain Paul Collingwood tweeted Wednesday before the fourth ODI in SAS Nagar: "Think I'll need my snow suit for Dharamsala."
The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) is sparing no effort to make the ODI a warm and welcoming affair at its new showpiece venue, at an altitude of 4,000 feet above sea level. The mighty snow-clad Dhauladhar ranges form the backdrop. "The stadium and pitch are ready for the big event," HPCA president Anurag Thakur told IANS.
He said the HPCA had been preparing for the match since the International Cricket Council (ICC) gave its clearance to HPCA in January last year for hosting one-day international (ODI) and Twenty20 matches. He said former Australian cricketer and ICC match referee David Boon visited the stadium on December 12 to check the infrastructure.
"The setting and outlook of this venue is outstanding," Boon had said in a report. HPCA officials said the stadium's popularity soared with the hosting of seven IPL matches in the past three IPL seasons. The stadium, 250 km from the state capital Shimla, has a 21,600-seating capacity. It also has an indoor stadium comprising video analysis facilities for bowlers and batters, a club lounge, restaurant, bar and banquet hall.