The buzz ahead of Friday's fourth One-day International between India and the West Indies in Dharamsala is missing. It seems the city, located in the foothills of the Himalayas at 1317 metres above sea level, prefers the fast-paced Twenty20 version of cricket they often see in the Indian Premier League.
Walking around the hill station, one doesn't get the feeling that India's madly-loved cricket stars will be playing at the scenic HPCA stadium after almost two years. Locals and organisers insist that the excitement during the IPL is more palpable than during an international match.
Mohit Sood, media manager at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA), attributed the lack of buzz in the picturesque town to the ongoing festive season. He added that about 12,000 tickets have been sold for the ODI while the seating capacity is 19,500.
"I think the lack of buzz is because Diwali is around the corner. People, especially the tourists, are not ready to leave their homes and travel all the way to Dharamsala. The scenes would have been different had the match been organised in a bigger city," Sood said on Thursday.
"The IPL is more popular as it is fast-paced and less time consuming. Its timing is also much better. The schools are off during the IPL leg here and tourists flock to Dharamsala in thousands. Having said that, we are expecting a full stadium tomorrow," he added.
Arvind Sharma, a travel agent based out of McLeod Ganj, claims the tourists influx is high during the IPL.
"I can safely say there are still many hotel rooms available around Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj. When the IPL season is on, it is all packed a week prior to the matches. The rush is definitely more during the IPL. May be not many tourists could plan well with doubts surrounding over the ODI," he said.
HPCA boss and BCCI joint-secretary Anurag Thakur appealed to people to attend the second-ever ODI and celebrate the festival season with the cricketers.
"We understand it is a festival season but I request people to come to the stadium for the match and, hopefully, celebrate Diwali with India's win."