With Twenty20 and IPL hellbent on pulling down the gentleman’s sport to new lows, where does one go if they want to experience the highs of cricket?
2250 metres above sea-level and dotted with pine and deodar trees, Chail itself is a a pretty, quieter hillstation 45 kms away from Shimla. For those on a tight schedule, it’s usually just Shimla and Kufri, 16 kms away. Those who have more time and less tolerance for the crowds of the more popular destinations could do well to spend a day checking out this summer capital of the Maharaja of Patiala, Bhupinder Singh. When the Britishers imposed an exile on him from Shimla, he chose Chail to build his palace.
Besides the Maharaja’s palace (now a luxury resort), tourists also pay a visit to Sidh Baba ka Mandir, a temple nearby. There is also the Military School that is housed in the heritage buildings built by the Maharaja. But what really catches everyone’s attention is the cricket ground, the world’s highest! Built in 1893, the ground is far removed from the crazy, money spinning version of the gentleman’s game that we see today. Also used for polo matches, the ground is never without action – if nothing, there are the odd groups of tourists who either stand and stare at the flat green patch in the mountains, or even try out an impromptu game.
Check out Chail for the peace and quiet, for the towering mountainscape, for the heritage buildings and the possibilities of long walks around. But if you still want to see a setting for cricket without the hustle-bustle thrust upon the game by rampant, ugly commercialism and money-power, the ground at Chail can still show you glimpses of how a classic game of cricket can still be played today.
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