Dharamsala: Fire rituals, a gate dedicated to the rain god...Himachal cricket authorities are on a holy mission - to keep the skies from opening up ahead of three Indian Premier League (IPL) matches starting on May 15.
"We have made enough preparations for the smooth conduct of the matches and now we are praying to god to keep the weather dry," Anurag Thakur, president of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA), told IANS.
The Met has forecast more rains at isolated places. But HPCA is hoping to combat it with a yajna, or fire ritual, to propitiate the weather gods.
Thakur said the town saw a good spell of thundershowers just a few hours before the match between Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab April 18 last year.
Dharamsala, the picturesque town located in the foothills of the majestic Dhauladhar range, is known for inclement weather. A sudden cloudy formation brings rainfall.
The stadium here will host three IPL matches, all involving Kings XI Punjab. The first will be with Delhi Daredevils May 15, Royal Challengers May 17, and Deccan Chargers May 21.
In the last IPL season too, the HPCA organised a yajna at the Indrunag temple dedicated to the rain god in the hills overlooking the stadium to appease the gods. More than 2,000 cricket fans participated in the 'yajna'. A special community kitchen was also organised there.
"This time we have already held one yajna at the Indrunag temple and one more will be organised ahead of the first match May 15. These days regular prayers are on there," HPCA spokesperson Mohit Sood said.
The HPCA has also constructed a big concrete gate dedicated to Lord Indrunag.
Manmohan Singh, director of the meteorological office in Shimla, said more rains and thundershowers might occur at isolated places in the northern region till May 15 due to fresh western disturbance over north Pakistan and adjoining Jammu and Kashmir.
According to him, several parts of the state were hit by thunderstorms and intermittent rains May 10, bringing down the temperatures.
But, he said, there is no need to worry. "During May, the chances of heavy rainfall in the state are minimal. Even if there is rainfall, the prevailing high temperature will dry the moisture very fast."
One of the newest cricket venues in the country, the stadium is situated nearly 4,000 feet above sea level. This time the HPCA has also been deploying modern gadgets to keep the ground dry in case of rain.
Sanjay Chauhan, pitch curator of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), said in case of rain, the ground would be ready within one-and-a-half hours.
"The drainage system has become more efficient to drain out rainwater. Four water soaking machines have been deployed. A light weight plastic cover was imported from Britain to cover the entire ground within five minutes," he said.
In 2005, when the stadium hosted a warm-up international tie between the touring Pakistan team and the Indian Board President's XI, the match was badly affected by rain.
The stadium, some 250 km from state capital Shimla, has a seating capacity of 20,400, besides separate practice areas, a club lounge, restaurant, bar and banquet hall.
It's being counted as the second home ground for the Kings XI Punjab team, which originally belongs to Mohali near Chandigarh.