3rd Test: BCCI keeps options open as concerns mount over relaid outfield in Dharamshala

The Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) is racing against time to get the Dharamshala stadium outfield match-ready for the third Test of the Border-Gavaskar Trophy which starts on March 1. As things stand, there are concerns about the outfield with the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) keeping its option open. The HPCA had relaid the entire outfield, including the pitch. Though the pitch is untested, it is not a major concern, an official told The Indian Express. The ‘small patch near the square’ is yet to be completed and that is the cause of worry.

The HPCA is hopeful that the ground will be ready by the time the teams travel to play their third Test match, which is still more than two weeks away. The BCCI’s inspection team, including the curator, are set to visit Dharamshala on February 12 to assess the conditions, following which a decision will be taken. The recent rains in the city have also delayed the work, and if the weather doesn’t improve, it could create further problems for the groundsmen.

The HPCA stadium, one of the most picturesque venues in world cricket, hosted only one Test in 2017 involving India and Australia. Although it has hosted T20s and ODIs regularly, the HPCA had made plans to relay the entire outfield keeping the local weather conditions in mind. The relaying work started post-monsoon.

Usually, when the pitch and the outfield are relaid, the common practice is to test it during a match. But so far that hasn’t happened, the official said. Right through the Ranji Trophy season, Himachal played their home matches at Nadaun as the work continued at Dharamshala. “There is still some work that needs to be done near the side area of the pitch. We are hopeful that things will be ready before the game. The HPCA will take a call after the BCCI inspection. We have relaid the whole surface with proper drainage and have added sprinklers to the ground. Some work is still pending and as three weeks are left we feel the work will be completed,” a source in HPCA said.

In case Dharamshala is ruled out, then BCCI is likely to look at Mohali as an option. Even Bengaluru seems to be under consideration and either way the BCCI is looking to formalise the decision at the earliest keeping the logistical challenges in mind. “In case the Test is moved out, even the curators at the new venue need time to get the pitch ready. A final call is expected by Monday or Tuesday,” sources in the know said.

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