Ahead of the big clash between defending champions England and Bangladesh, most of the attention is focused on the pitch at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium (HPCA) in Dharamshala. On October 7, HPCA hosted the first match of the 2023 ODI World Cup and Afghan spinner Mujeeb ur Rahman suffered a nasty blow to his knee.
Since then, many questions have arisen about the pitch and the risk of playing matches at the facility. The International Cricket Council (ICC) also rated the venue’s pitch as “average” but gave its nod to the England-Bangladesh match.
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Concerns persist, with an HPCA official blaming the incessant rains in the region for the current condition of the pitch.
“There are still some issues on the field, but a lot has improved over the last few days. However, incessant rains in the region coupled with insufficient sunlight are making it difficult for the grass to grow,” an HPCA official tells CricketNext.
During June to September this year, Dharamshala received heavy rainfall, almost 40% more than usual. Due to the rain, the green winter grass did not have enough time and sun to grow, and as a result, spots appeared near the bowler’s run-up and boundary lines.
Given the cold wave the region experiences between October and November, the HPCA decided to use winter grass instead of Bermuda grass on the field. However, the rain spoiled their plans and did not allow the green grass to grow.
“Bermuda grass does not stay green during the height of winter, and with the World Cup schedule in October, we opted for winter grass because it stays green even during low temperatures. However, nature had its own plan and long-lasting rains made it difficult to digest the growth,” the official adds.
The last time a major event took place at this picturesque location was during the 2023 edition of the IPL, but a lot has changed since then. The lush greenery of the field is no longer as consistent throughout. Ground staff continue to work hard ahead of the ENG vs BAN match and are regularly watering and rolling appropriate areas.
“The condition of the playing field has become many times better. The ICC officials and the BCCI technical team found the pitch suitable for the matches and the concerns raised by them have now been resolved. The amendments have been withdrawn and we hope for a good match,” the official explains.
“I think it’s bad”
On the eve of the match, England captain Jos Buttler described the pitch as “poor”. Conditions were bright and sunny as Buttler & Co. practiced on the facility, but the captain did not like the condition of the outer field.
“I think it’s bad. I think any time you think about diving carefully or being careful in the field, it goes against everything you want to do as a team, so the surface isn’t perfect, but the location is not an excuse. We have to adapt to it, but we certainly have to hold back and that’s not where you want to be as a team or as a player going into a World Cup match,” Buttler said in his pre-match media interaction.
The explosive right-hander refuses to use the outfield as an excuse and urges his teammates to be “a little smart.”
“Injuries can happen at any time and on any surface. But it’s definitely one where you have to be a little bit careful and it’s not something you want to do when playing for your country because you wouldn’t be putting your body at risk trying to save every run and be sure of the field. There is no excuse for what could have been or what should have been because both teams will be the same. The wicket looks fantastic and we are hungry to go out and play well. So we won’t use fielding as an excuse to be smart,” added Buttler.
This is not the first time that Dharamshala’s pitch has been in the news. Earlier this year, the third Test match between India and Australia was moved from the venue due to insufficient grass coverage. The stadium underwent massive construction last year, with the entire pitch and plaza renovated keeping in mind the extreme weather conditions. Fielding issues persist and it remains to be seen whether the situation will improve before India take on New Zealand later this month.
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