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IND vs ENG: England and their fans feel at home in nippy Dharamsala


The results may not have gone their way on the tour of India but England have had no shortage of fan support and it is set to reach its peak this week in the picturesque town of Dharamsala.

The fifth and final Test is still two days away but thousands of English fans have flocked to the hill station. The Barmy Army has provided constant support through the series but the prospect of watching Test cricket amid the stunning backdrop of the Himalayas has attracted even more fans from England.

Three early morning flights from Delhi Airport to Dharamsala were packed with English fans and a handful of locals including Indian captain Rohit Sharma, giving the impression that the game was being played in the UK. Upon their arrival at the Gaggal Airport, the fans were left in awe of the snowcapped mountains in the background. The weather, unusually cold for this time of the year, is also making the English fans feel right at home.

“This is the kind of weather we see in England in April and May. It feels like start of the summer for us and we are loving it. The place is absolutely stunning. However, it would have been nicer if teams were locked at 2-2 going into the game,” said a fan who has flown in from Liverpool.

England’s opening practice session here had a very relaxed vibe to it. With ‘Paradise City’ from Guns N’ Roses being played from the speakers kept outside the nets, the England batters went through their paces. In their break time, they were seen marveling at the majestic mountains.

Jonny Bairstow, who is set to play his 100th Test, rates the Newlands in Cape Town at his favourite venue but on Tuesday, he had to concede that there is nothing more picturesque than the HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala.

“It’s absolutely stunning here, I don’t think there’s a more picturesque ground in the world. Cape Town is one of my favourite places but when you take a moment, look up at the mountains with the snow and everything that goes with it up here in Dharamsala, it’s quite incredible,” said Bairstow.

The England batter also commended the groundstaff for fixing the relaid outfield which received scathing criticism during the ODI World Cup in October-November.

“They’ve done a brilliant job with the field for a start, if you look back at the field from the World Cup, the transition that has been made to produce something like that has been amazing.”

The surface, which looked flat 48 hours before the game, has been a topic of intense discussion with the cooler conditions bringing the seamers into the game.

“Obviously, the moisture will be there at the start on all days for the seamers to exploit, that is the nature of the surface here. Spinners will come into play later on,” said an HPCA official. Bairstow feels the surface will not provide an undue advantage to either side.

“They are favourable for both teams, I don’t think there’s one side it favours…look at the seam attack India have, world class and the spinners… I think it will be a great game. It’s a used pitch from the Ranji trophy, so let’s see how it plays out…it looks a nice wicket,” he said. In the only Test played here in 2017, the spinners played an important role with debutant Kuldeep Yadav picking four wickets in the first innings and Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja sharing six wickets in the second innings.

Ashwin, who like Bairstow will be featuring in his 100th Test, said both teams are heading into unknown territory.

“It’s pretty cold here. It will take a bit of time for the fingers to adjust. This is a little colder than what it usually is in March. We haven’t got a lot of practice here. That’s the beauty. There are a lot of unknowns. Sometimes even when you are playing in India, it looks like an away game for you,” said Ashwin.

Rohit, who reached Dharamsala via Delhi in the morning, had more travel in store as he needed to attend a sports event in Bilaspur. The captain and head coach Rahul Dravid joined their teammates in the nick of time with a helicopter ride back from Bilaspur. The whole of India’s squad attended the training session.

Published By:

Saurabh Kumar

Published On:

Mar 5, 2024

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