In the 8 weeks we were in India, I managed to get Jess to sit through three cricket matches. An achievement I am still rather proud of!
As a cricket fan, watching a match in India has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. Jess however is not and prior to this trip knew nothing about the sport other than that it was ‘boring’ and ‘took forever’, meaning that I had my work cut out when it came to persuading her to watch a game. So upon landing in India I was pleased to learn that their enthusiasm for the sport was as infectious as I had hoped.
Almost everyone we met, whether rich or poor, young or old, Hindu, Buddhist or Muslim, they all wanted to chat cricket. We quickly learnt that it is much more than just a sport in India, it is religion. One that unites the 24 states, giving people from all backgrounds a reason to come together and cheer for something positive. Very quickly, seeing a match first hand became very high on our priority list.
Through Instagram I had seen that the stadium at Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh, Northern India was one of the most picturesque cricket grounds in the world. It just so happened that India were scheduled to play New Zealand in a one day match at the stadium around the time we were planning to visit - Perfect!
The HPCA stadium is the highest international stadium in the world. Nestled into the foothills of the Himalayas, it is also regarded as one of the most beautiful. The match itself wasn’t the best quality with India trampling a sorry NZ, but true to their reputation, the Indian crowd made sure that did not matter one bit. The thousands of fans, as promised, created a festival like atmosphere turning the mediocre cricket spectacle into a carnival of colours and noise. Their attitude towards the game was incredible, cheering New Zealand’s successes just as much as their own - when we asked the people surrounding us why that was, they said that they wanted to see good cricket and that was all that as important to them. They obviously wanted India to win, but good cricket came first and foremost. That said, hearing the noise and excitement when Kholi hits a 6 is something else - only potentially rivalled by the moment when someone in the crowd sees their face up on the big screen - only in India!
Like most things in India however, there were a few surprises along the way. Things which would have been helpful to know prior to arriving at the stadium...
Here are some tips if you are planning to go to a cricket match in India:
- Getting In - This is a chaotic nightmare - Nine rounds of security checks in some instances (especially in the North), each deciding different things aren’t allowed in. Tips: don’t bring a rucksack or bag, no cameras allowed (phones are fine) Get rid of your loose change and even any suncream or lip balm for that matter - everything, literally EVERYTHING will be taken off of you so plan ahead.
- Food and Drink - Our biggest surprise perhaps was that no alcohol is served in the stadium (for safety reasons we later found out) While this isn’t a problem, to manage expectations, it won’t be a long afternoon of sipping beer in the sun as you would expect in the UK. Fear not though - the crowd makes up for the lack of excitement from booze.
- Getting Home - Pre plan a taxi driver to wait for you. Again, leaving the ground is chaos so having someone already waiting in a pre planned spot will help tremendously.