Efforts by the inhabitants of Kaza in Lahaul-Spiti district to enter the town’s playground, located at 12,000 feet above sea level, in the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest sports field in the world have been stonewalled by the state government’s indifference. Work on constructing a multipurpose stadium, aimed at promoting sports in the tribal areas, began in 1998 but has been halted due to lack of funds.
“The length of the ground is not adequate for holding cricket matches. We want the government to provide more funds so that the project can be completed,” said Shaklang Dorje, president of the local youth organization.
“Funds are sporadically allocated by the sports department but they’re not adequate for completing the playground. If the government takes serious interest in the project and organizes regular sports events there, it may enter the Guinness Book of World Records as the highest sports field in the world,” he added.
A Buddhist pilgrimage centre existing from the early 14th century, Kaza is the subdivisional headquarters of the remote Spiti valley with a population of 2,230. With the valley remaining cut off from the rest the country for more than six months every year due to heavy snowfall, sports is only the source of entertainment for youngsters in the sparsely populated villages. “Cricket is catching up though other sports like ‘kabbadi’ and volleyball are also gaining popularity. The government should make sincere efforts to complete this playground,” Padma Dorje, head of Kaza ‘panchayat’, said.
Until recently the Chail cricket ground, also located in Himachal, was considered to be the highest cricket ground in the world. However, despite its unique location, it has not been properly maintained and no first class match has ever been held there.
The absence of a groundsman has left the cricket pitch in shambles with the state's cricket association appearing to be least bothered. Locals use the ground for interschool matches with army personnel stationed nearby holding sports meets and march-pasts. The field was built in 1983 by the cricket loving Maharaja of Patiala after levelling a hilltop and is surrounded by huge ‘deodar’ and pine trees.