World's highest cricket ground in Himachal Pradesh, and the stadium that will soon be built even higher
Chail is a hill station in the scenic Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. What is special about this place is that it is home to the world’s highest cricket ground, which is surrounded by chir pine and gigantic deodar trees and stands at an elevation of 2250 m above sea level.
Chail is situated around 45 km from Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh. It is considered to be a paradise for hikers, owing to its distance away from the hustle and bustle of Shimla.
Origins of the Chail Cricket Ground
In 1891, during the British Raj, Maharaja Bhupinder Singh of the royal family of Patiala provoked Lord Kitchener to anger, which led to the Maharaja being banned from entering Shimla, which was the summer capital then. The Maharaja then made Chail his summer capital and rebuilt the place as per his needs. He built the cricket ground in 1893 by levelling a hilltop.
The Maharaja was a cricket lover and used the Chail Cricket Ground to play friendlies. After the formation of the Indian Union, the then Maharaja of Patiala donated all the buildings and the ground to Chail Military School and the Government of India. The cricket ground is being used as the school playground by Chail Military School. During the school vacations, the ground is sometimes used to play polo. The ground also includes a well-maintained basketball court. Occasionally, even football is played on the ground as there are goal posts present.
Will Chail host a major game?
No big matches have been played at this scenic ground. However, some of the Test players do visit Chail for practice sessions. So, why has there been not even any first-class matches conducted here yet? The ground requires renovation in order to be in a condition to host a match of such standard. Also, in order to play matches, prior permission from the Military School is required.
Another reason as to why matches are not held here could be the problem of balls being lost on occasion of a big six being hit. Although there is a fence to stop the balls from rolling down the hill, there is no way to stop those that fly way above the fence.
New contender for the highest cricket ground in the world
Chail Cricket Ground could lose the elite honour of being the highest cricket ground in the world if the remote district of Lahaul-Spiti in Himachal Pradesh, which is at an elevation of 3048 m, realize the dream of building a cricket stadium. This cold and barren land of Lahaul-Spiti might seem like an unlikely place to play a game of cricket, but the District Cricket Association has earmarked 3.2 hectares of land for the stadium in the village of Sissu. The stadium is to be built on the pattern of the Dharamsala stadium and would comprise of all the required amenities.
Surinder Thakur, president of the district association, has said that despite funds not being made available by both HPCA and BCCI, the support received from the people as well as financial support from the Congress MLA – Ravi Thakur – will help in the pursuit of getting the stadium built. “We have a very small amount in the bank account but this is not going to stop us from realizing the dream,” Thakur said.
Until Lahaul-Spiti gets their stadium, the distinction of being the highest cricket ground in the world will remain with Chail Cricket Ground. But, if Chail is not able to upgrade the ground to enable first-class matches to be played then the stadium in Sissu could have the privilege of hosting a major match first. Only time will tell which of these little towns will receive that honour.