1,200 cricket Teams to Vie for Premier League in Himachal

By Vishal Gulati

Shimla, Sep 1 (IANS): The cricketing season is back in the hills of Himachal Pradesh with a staggering 1,200 teams, mainly from rural areas, all set to compete in the mega premier league starting in November.

This is the second time that the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) will hold the Twenty20 Cricket Mahasangram, a local version of Twenty20 league.

"There would be more than 1,200 teams, mostly from the rural areas. The tournament involves 18,000 budding players, 100 umpires and 75 grounds in the state," HPCA press secretary Mohit Sood told IANS.

He said last year 14,300 players from 1,017 teams participated in the tournament and matches were played at 60 places. Cash prizes of about Rs.30 lakh were distributed among the teams and the players.

Anurag Thakur, the HPCA chief and son of Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, said: "The tournament is an opportunity to spot talent in the rural areas and, of course, promoting the game too. It will give exposure to the players. From now on it will be an annual feature."

"The top players selected during the tournament would be given professional training by the HPCA," he added.

The semifinals and the final would be played under lights in the HPCA stadium in Dharamsala. The picturesque stadium, situated nearly 4,000 feet above sea level, has already hosted two Indian Premier League (IPL) matches this year.

Sood said any private club could play in the tournament by paying a nominal fee of Rs.100. "No player above the age of 25 can play in the tournament," he added.

While the top team would be given Rs.300,000 as cash award, the runner-up will get Rs.200,000. The semifinalists will get Rs.50,000 each.

"Every day around 100 matches will be played and the losing team will be eliminated. The tournament would be over within a month," he said.

The HPCA is expecting a huge rush to witness the final in Dharamsala.

"We are expecting more than 15,000 spectators to watch the final. Even last year, there were around 10,000 spectators," said Thakur, who is a BJP MP from Hamirpur.

The HPCA stadium, one of the most beautiful grounds in the world, hosted a match between Kings XI Punjab and Deccan Chargers and the Chennai Super Kings and Kings XI Punjab April 16 and 18 respectively.

The stadium, some 250 km from state capital Shimla, has a seating capacity of 20,000, besides separate practice areas, a club lounge, restaurant, bar and banquet hall.


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