Taking cricket to the hills of India
A 500-year old temple, breathtaking views of the Kullu Valley and the Dhauladhar ranges, 1,342 teams and Twenty20 cricket all feature in the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association’s plan to spread the game amidst the hills and valleys of the state, writes Jonathan Selvaraj in the Indian Express.
The tournament, which began on November 29, will go on for a month and a half. The participating players are mostly local villagers and though the organisers provide them balls, they have to pool in for bats and helmets, food and travelling expenses.
With breathtaking views of the Kullu Valley and the Dhauladhar ranges, the setting is spectacular. But the playing conditions are nowhere near perfect. The pitch is matting and the playing field is far from level—balls hit by a right hander towards the leg side tend to roll downhill where children in slippers play with bats crudely carved out of any available wood and balls made of cloth. Balls are sometimes hard to field when they slide off slopes or plop into streams. Occasionally, play has to be stopped as cattle and ponies traipse along the outfield, on their way to the jungle to graze.
Tariq Engineer is a former senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo