Venue profile: HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala hosts its first ever Test match
The ongoing Test series between India and Australia is level at one apiece after three Tests, with the final Test to be played at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium in Dharamsala on 25th of March. It will be the first ever Test at the most picturesque cricket ground.
The series has already witnessed Pune and Ranchi hosting their inaugural Tests and Dharamsala will be the third on the list. It will be the perfect setting to end a high voltage series in the land of Dalai Lama and at an altitude of 1457m above sea level with the snow-capped mountains in the background.
Extra Cover: Ranchi serves an intriguing fare
The first two Tests in the series were played on surfaces that were conducive to spin and sparked a lot of controversy with the match-referee Chris Broad rating the Pune pitch as poor and the Bengaluru pitch as below average. The Ranchi deck was completely different as batsmen from both teams piled on the runs and the game ended in a draw.
It will be interesting to see the kind pitch that would be on offer in Dharamsala.The ground is smaller in size as compared to other venues and the elevation aids the ball to travel much faster. It has traditionally assisted pacers due to the open structure of the ground that allows the breeze to flow in. But as always, the talk before the game will be about when the pitch would start spinning.
Here is a look at the brief history of the venue:
International debuts for Dharamsala
The HPCA stadium came into the limelight when a few IPL matches were played there in 2010 and fans loved the sight of the ground. The venue was home to the Kings XI Punjab franchise for a few games in the IPL.
Former BCCI president Anurag Thakur promoted the venue and it hosted its first ever international game when India played against England in an ODI in 2013. India did not get off to the perfect start and lost the game by 7 wickets.
The first ever T20 international was played between India and South Africa in 2015. A belter of a pitch was presented where Rohit Sharma notched up a classy hundred and India posted a total of 199. But it was outclassed by the efforts of AB de Villiers and JP Duminy as the Proteas won by 7 wickets.
India’s record at the venue
Clearly, India did not have the kind of start they would have hoped for after losing both the inaugural ODI and T20. After the first ODI against England, they played another ODI against West Indies in 2014 where there was another run feast and a superb hundred from Virat Kohli allowed India to post a big score of 330. West Indies were restricted to 271 handing India their first ever win in Dharamsala.
The next and the most recent ODI was played at the HPCA Stadium between India and New Zealand. The Kiwis were bowled out for 190 in the first innings with Indian spinners Amit Mishra and Kedar Jadhav picking up five wickets. The chase was anchored by another superb effort from Kohli which helped India to a 6-wicket win. They currently have two wins and two losses at the venue across two formats.
The ground also hosted six matches of the first round of the 2016 World T20 that featured Bangladesh, Netherlands, Ireland and Oman. It also hosted a group stage match between Australia and New Zealand in which the Kiwis emerged as victorious.
Prediction of ground conditions for the final Test
The Australian tour to India so far has seen everything. The visitors defied all odds to win on a rank turner in Pune, before India bounced back in Bengaluru on a pitch that offered spin. The Ranchi pitch did not have the vicious turn and batsman piled on the runs in the first innings.
Extra Cover: Kohli laments lost toss after Ranchi draw
India need a win to regain the Border-Gavaskar trophy whereas Australia will retain it even with a draw. The pitch at Dharamsala is most likely to produce turn early on as India’s strength lies with spin, in spite of them losing in Pune on a rank turner.
But if the pitch assists the batsman, there could be a lot of runs on offer given the small size of the ground and the quick outfield.