This north Indian hill town is set to host IPL on Wednesday after 10 years on newly laid outfield of Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association's (HPCA) showpiece stadium, one of the most beautiful grounds located at an altitude of 4,000 feet above sea level.
Organisers believe the stadium's popularity will soar with the new outfield and they are leaving no stone unturned to make the match an unforgettable affair.
A state-of-art air evacuation system will make a rollicking debut at the Dharamsala ground, with a combination of stunning cold season ryegrass and shade tolerant fine leaf Paspalum grass, HPCA media in-charge Mohit Sood told IANS.
He said the HPCA realised the need for a good drainage system as Dharamsala normally receives heavy rainfall annually in the region and a grass variety suitable to the both moist and cold climatic conditions is must.
By creating one of the most advanced cricket grounds, the organisers managed to improve world-class infrastructure in the stadium that is known for the stunning beauty amidst the Dhauladhar mountains in the backdrop.
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The new air evacuation system will not only mob up excess rainwater within no time, but also helps aerate the root zone which keeps the plant healthy all throughout.
The SIS Air evacuation system is a technology developed by SIS Pitches Holland, a UK-based company, installed by its India partner GreaterTEN of Mumbai.
Ryegrass was first seeded with temperatures between three and 15 degrees Celsius in winters and later on to cope up with high temperatures in summer Paspalum was introduced considering its shade tolerance too.
Sood said the work to install a drainage system began in late September last year. However, unpredictable and extended rain halted the work a few times till late October.
A whopping 11,000 tons of material was excavated and replaced with a specifically selected river sand and gravel tested from a European lab. Also 6,000 m of specialty pipes were installed with a laser-based system to get the highest level of finish and accuracy.
An underground reservoir and a plant room are part of this whole system. SIS Air engineers supervised the whole operation done under the skilled team of GreaterTEN.
The whole work was accomplished in a record time of 75 days. Ryegrass seeds imported from the US and were seeded in the last week of December to get it ready by early March. However, the weather had a different plan, say HPCA officials.
"Unforeseen weather conditions caused a little delay for the desired results. We gracefully accepted the call of the valley and allowed weather gods to take its course of time to get this stunning beauty," said an HPCA functionary.
The HPCA stadium, about 250 km from state capital Shimla, has nine wickets. "The outfield can now cope up with any amount of rain and the game can be resumed in 15 minutes which is normally the time taken to put and take off the wicket covers," a curator told IANS.
Over 22,000 people are expected to witness two IPL matches.
With the excitement soaring high, members of the local hospitality industry see good business prospects. They say a two-day weekend post the second match on May 19 will give an opportunity to cricket fans to extend their stay for at least two days.
Dharamsala has 56 registered hotels and guesthouses with a bed capacity of nearly 1,200.
Similarly, McLeodganj, the uphill quaint town that is the abode of Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, has around 91 registered hotels with a capacity to accommodate 1,100 people.
But there is no five-star hotel in the vicinity of this town.
Pankaj Chadha, owner of the McLio restaurant in McLeodganj, said the hosting of the match after a long gap of nine years would certainly increase tourist footfalls.
Players of both Punjab Kings and Delhi Capitals on Tuesday evening enjoyed food and drinks at McLio.
Players are staying in the Pavilion complex of Radisson Blu, which has 32 huts made of imported wood. The Pavilion, overlooking the stadium, is some three kilometres from the stadium.
The stadium figured first on the international cricket map in 2005 when it hosted a warm-up tie between the touring Pakistan team and the Indian Board President's XI.
The Dharamsala stadium last hosted an IPL match in 2013, when Punjab (then Kings XI Punjab) defeated the Mumbai Indians by 50 runs.
The mighty Dhauladhar peaks in the stadium's backdrop, the nearby British era tea estates and the spiritual pull of globetrotting Buddhist monk the Dalai Lama are going to give cricket buffs a time to relax and introspect.
(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
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