Dharamshala, a hill town in Himachal Pradesh famous as the adopted home of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan-government-in exile, is gearing up to host the keenly awaited India-Pakistan cricket clash on Mach 19 next year.
“It’s a huge opportunity for us and hum chahte hain ki India and Pakistan ke naye cricket rishton ki shuruat yahin se ho (We want that India Pakistan cricket relations have a fresh start from here). India-Pakistan match in any global ICC tournament is the biggest draw for audience as well as spectators and HPCA and both the teams will enjoy playing here,” said Mohit Sood, spokesperson and press secretary of HPCA, while talking with The Indian Express on Friday.
The last time India played Pakistan in India in an ICC event was the 2011 World Cup semi-finals at Mohali and the Prime Ministers of both the countries saw the match. “We are ready to host dignitaries and the first meeting for arrangements will happen on Sunday,” said Sood.
Although it is a league match, the HPCA is anticipating more than the capacity audience of Dharamshala’s 20,600-seater cricket stadium. In 2005, when Pakistan played India A at the stadium, more than 10,000 people turned up to watch the likes of Imzamam ul Haq and Shahid Afridi in the warm-up match.
With a set quota of tickets offered to international fans for every match, spectators are expected to arrive from all over the world, and neighbouring Pakistan.
The stadium has hosted three International matches so far: the India-England and India-West Indies one-dayers and the India-South Africa T-20, which was played on October 2.
“The stadium has a capacity of 20,600 and we also have 19 corporate boxes. The tickets will be sold online and some of the tickets will go to the central pool of BCCI also since it is an ICC event. Yes, we know that fans across the world will want to see the match and we will book 20-25 hotels for BCCI and HPCA guests. Apart from online tickets, HPCA would also offer tickets for local fans,” said Sood.
The city, which is also home of the Tibetan government in exile, has 150 hotels, including hotels at nearby places like Mcleodganj, Kangra apart from Palampur. The airport is at Gaggal, 15 km from the stadium.
During the India-West Indies contest last year, players from both sides managed to get an audience with the Dalali Lama.
“We welcome the players. Himachal Pradesh is land of gods and Dharamsala has a special meaning for players and the two countries too. If they are playing in Dharamshala, it will also represent peace, which has been always supported by His Holiness Dalai Lama and we certainly hope the issues will be resolved between India and Pakistan through peace. It will also be an opportunity for the Tibetan people in Dharamshala to showcase their cause and culture to fans and people from across the world and also to offer hospitality services,” said Karma Yeshi, Member Parliament Tibetan Parliament in Exile.
And the district administration is also preparing for the high-security event. “Indian team played South Africa on October 2 this year and with the day being a national holiday, we saw a packed house. The Administration would be looking after the management of the crowd and the other aspects of the match. We will soon have a meeting with police officials once HPCA approaches us,” said Ritesh Chauhan, Deputy Commisioner, Kangra.
And for HPCA, it will also be a chance to show the same kind of hospitality which they offered to the Pakistan team during the 2005 series.
“We have relaid the grass at the stadium recently and the pitches have been also in good condition. Pakistan team will have the luxury to train at whatever time they want to train. Apart from that, special arrangements for Indian food will also be made since they also share the almost the same cuisine as India. When they visited us in 2005, they also liked Indian food and some of the players especially asked for Indian food. A lot of people then had come to watch players like Inzamam and Afridi,” said Sood.