Tariq Engineer is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo
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The picturesque Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) Stadium in Dharamsala has been approved by the ICC to host international one-dayers and Twenty20 matches. The venue was inspected by ICC match referee and former Australia batsman David Boon last month and the approval was conveyed to the association yesterday morning, according to Mohit Sood, the HPCA's press secretary.
"It is a very important decision [for us]," Sood told ESPNcricinfo. "We don't have any other ground in the state that can host ICC-approved international matches. This is the first ground in Himachal Pradesh."
At an altitude of 1317 metres above sea level and with the snow-capped Dauladhar hill-range rising in the background, the stadium is arguably India's most beautiful. It has hosted a number of IPL matches over the past couple of years, serving as the second home for the Kings XI Punjab franchise. It was the IPL experience that convinced the association that they were capable of hosting international games. "After that we approached the BCCI to take the case forward [with the ICC]," Sood said.
The process began two years ago and this was the second inspection of the stadium, which has a capacity of 23,000 and is located 250 km from the state capital, Shimla. The first time around, the HPCA were told that their security arrangements and the infrastructure for the players were not adequate. Since Dharamsala does not have hotels of the standard required by the ICC, Sood said that they built their own in the form of a residential academy to house the players and improved security to the point where their procedures passed muster.
He expects the opportunity to see live international games to motivate more people in the state to take up the game and, thereby, improve the overall quality of their cricket. "As it is, with the creation of infrastructure, our team is doing well at the domestic level. In the near future, we will have players from the state representing India."