A chilly wind sweeping across the picturesque Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium, the sun playing hide and seek with the clouds hanging over the Dauladhar range and groundsmen leaving no grass unturned to prepare the pitch and the outfield, Dharamshala is all set to host the second and third T20 internationals between India vs Sri Lanka this weekend.
For the first time in over two years, fans will be allowed to attend a cricket match. According to Himachal Pradesh government regulations, 50 per cent of the 23,000 capacity HPCA stadium is expected to be full.
This will be the first time in 2022 that fans will attend a cricket match anywhere in India. The India versus West Indies series matches in Ahmedabad and Kolkata were played in front of empty stadiums.
According to the organisers, all tickets for Saturday's India vs Sri Lanka T20 have been sold out and Sunday's tickets were fast running out.
India are eyeing their 11th T20 international win on the trot. They last lost to New Zealand in the T20 World Cup 2021 in UAE. Afghanistan and Romania have the record of most T20 wins on-the-trot --12 each.
But rain could be a damper as there is 90 per cent chance of rain on Saturday. The India vs Sri Lanka match will be played under floodlights from 7 PM IST.
It has been misty and chilly in these regions. On Thursday, it had rained in Shimla and the high altitude areas of Lahaul-Spiti and Rohtang pass had snow.
Friday was cloudy. Sunday is expected to be a clear day. India lead the three-match series 1-0 after a 62-run win in Lucknow on Thursday.
The weather has been a worry. On Friday, organisers offered a special puja and prayers at the Indrunag temple in Dharamshala. There will a 'Kanya Pujan' Saturday morning to keep the rains away.
There was no dearth of excitement as the teams arrived by special flights on Friday morning. A special corridor has been created for the players to travel between the airport and the team hotel located outside the main town.
Said Superintendent of Police (Kangra) Khushal Sharma, “There will be foolproof security at the hotel and no one will be allowed to meet the players since a bio-bubble has been created for them."
Sharma said there will 14 gates for entry and exit of fans and all COVID-appropriate protocols will be followed.
BCCI treasurer Arun Dhumal said: “Himachal Pradesh being a tourist state had suffered a blow during the pandemic. I thought it will be a perfect opportunity to revive the tourism activity and enable hoteliers to make some business. I am thankful to the BCCI and state government for allowing spectators."