M A I N   N E W S

Himachal hills ready for IPL bash
l Twin towns — Dharamsala, McLeodganj — wear a festive look
l Rs 3-crore special grant doled out by govt l 600 hotel rooms booked for players, officials, mediamen l Last-minute touches being given to the stadium 
Lalit Mohan/ Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, April 14
The initial euphoria has given way to last-minute jitters. With two IPL matches scheduled to be played here this week — one on Friday and another on Sunday — the organisers and administration are keeping their fingers crossed.

This is the first time such high-profile cricket matches are being hosted by the state cricket association headed by the Chief Minister’s son and Hamirpur MP Anurag Thakur. And the nervousness shows. With generous help from the state government, which is spending several crores in dressing up the twin-towns of Dharamsala and Mcleodganj, the association hopes to create history of sorts and overcome the hiccups.

The association has booked 600 hotel rooms for players, officials, visiting media and the VIPs but the acute shortage of ‘five-star facilities’ is being felt, confess insiders. Players who have already arrived are ecstatic about the natural beauty of the hills but are learnt to be cribbing about facilities or the lack of them.

The HPCA tried to build a-five star hotel of its own on Khainara road in Dharamsala. It took government land on lease and the construction of the hotel had started in full swing with a New Zealand-based company entrusted with the task but allegedly without obtaining the permission of the town and country planning department. The hotel, however, could not be completed.

While ordinary tourists are advised not to venture into the twin towns this week, those who arrive to watch the matches are also going to have a tough time. An estimated five thousand vehicles are expected to descend on Dharamsala on both days. But the parking lots are spread so far away that the farthest one is some 5 km from the stadium. Walking 5 km in the hills and back will be some exercise for the spectators!

But with a special grant of Rs 3 crore from the state government, all roads in Dharamsala have been relaid. Special lighting has been arranged to light up roadside trees and hectic work continues within the stadium, designed to hold 22,000-odd spectators. There is no mistaking whose show it is with the Hamirpur MP staking everything in the project. The IPL matches, he hopes, would give a further boost to tourism in the hill state and give a leg-up to the region because of the international television coverage.

There is considerable excitement among local residents and autograph hunters are following players everywhere. Players of Kings XI Punjab seemed to be in an indulgent mood after their recent victories and have been obliging local cricket fans by posing for photographs.

Earlier in the week, players gave securitymen the slip and drove off to Mcleodganj at night. A stiff warning from the Superintendent of Police does not appear to have spoilt the party though. Wednesday morning saw players shooting for an advertisement in the stadium.

The cricket matches have drawn flak from the Opposition with the Congress questioning the decision to give HPCA government land for commercial purposes and spending public money on behalf of the association. The government should have levied entertainment tax instead, the government was told. The controversy is unlikely to end but for the time being, all eyes are on the pitch and the curator, assisted by Daljit Singh. Will it allow a run feast or will it spoil the show is what is keeping the organisers awake.





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