Himachal hopes success of IPL matches would bring international matches

Dharamsala, May 13 (IANS) The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) is eagerly looking towards the successful hosting of three Indian Premier League (IPL) matches to stake its claim for holding international matches.

The HPCA Stadium, arguably the most beautiful venue in the country, is all set to host May 15, 17 and 21 IPL matches for the second consecutive season. Since 2010, the stadium, surrounded by the snow-clad Dhauladhar range and lush green pine forests, has become the second home venue of Kings XI Punjab.

The success of IPL matches has encouraged HPCA officials to ask the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for international matches.

HPCA president Anurag Tahkur, a member of BCCI finance committee, said a team of International Cricket Council (ICC) officials will visit the stadium soon to inspect the facilities before giving the final nod.

‘We are confident that the stadium meets international standards and when the ICC team comes here it will be impressed by the infrastructure we have,’ Thakur told IANS.

The venue is the first in India to use winter rye grass scattered around the outfield, which prevents the grass from withering when temperatures fall below 10 degrees Celsius. This year, indoor practice facilities were added to the stadium.

However, the shortage of hotel rooms for the spectators is worrying the HPCA. The town has just 56 registered hotels and guesthouses with a bed capacity of 1,100.

Similarly, McLeodganj, eight kilometres from Dharamsala, has around 91 registered hotels with a capacity to accommodate 1,000 people.

There are no five-star hotels and no major airport that can accommodate jetliners.

Thakur, a BJP MP from Hamirpur and son of state chief minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, admitted that the shortage of hotels is an impediment in hosting international matches.

‘We have requested the state government and private entrepreneurs to set up hotels in and around the town,’ he said.

For the players, the HPCA has constructed an ultra-luxurious residential complex, The Pavilion, some three kilometres from the stadium.

‘The Pavilion has 36 huts made of imported wood and similar number of concrete rooms. Last year the IPL players enjoyed their stay in the wooden cottages,’ said Thakur.

Sources in HPCA said that Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) was not keen to share the hosting of international matches in the region and would try to scuttle their plans of hosting international matches here.

‘Mohali has been holding international matches for nearly a decade and hence it would like to continue to do so. Naturally, they would like Mohali to be the only venue in this region to host international matches,’ said a HPCA official.

In 2005, the stadium hosted a warm-up tie between the touring Pakistani team and the Indian Board President’s XI.

The stadium, some 250 km from state capital Shimla, has a seating capacity of 20,400, besides separate practice areas, a club lounge, restaurant, bar and banquet hall.