DEHRADUN: The picturesque Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket stadium on the outskirts of the Dehradun city is all set to be India’s 51st International cricket centre on Sunday when it will play host to the first of the three-match T20 International series between Afghanistan and Bangladesh. As a goodwill gesture in support of Afghan cricket, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has allowed the Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) to use the venue as its adopted home for the next three years. Thanks to this decision the people of Uttarakhand will now be able to witness international cricket right at their backward.

The stadium was officially inaugurated on May 26 by the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, Trivendra Singh Rawat. The venue is set against the backdrop of rolling hills and rivers and blends with the charming landscape of the Doon valley. In fact, the surroundings remind Afghanistan skipper Asghar Stanikzai of his homeland.

"The best thing about this place is that it looks like Afghanistan, with the mountains surrounding the stadium. It feels like home," he said in his pre-game press conference on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the stadium has all the essential amenities for players, spectators and media, which are required in modern-day cricket. It has a capacity of 25,000 and the intimate seating bowl provides uninterrupted views of the cricket field for the audience. Importantly, the stands are equipped for complete evacuation in less than 8 minutes as per international security guidelines in case of an emergency.

Furthermore, in the clubhouse complex, there are allied services available, like guest rooms, restaurants, banquet halls, auditorium, bowling alley and indoor sports facility will make this the new destination in the city and the entire region. Also, the Dehradun International Cricket Stadium is India’s first LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold standard sporting arena.

Hence, the stage is set. And now we expect both Afghanistan and Bangladesh to play their expressive brand of cricket to provide the local fans the memory of a lifetime in this inaugural series.

However, despite all the ingredients of what is expected to be a highly contested series, the enthusiasm among the local cricket lovers is still quite subdued. It is being learnt that about 6,000 tickets were sold until Saturday evening for the first match of the series. Perhaps it the result of the lack of branding on part of the ACB to promote these historic fixtures. I met quite a few people in Dehradun on Saturday, who were not even aware of the fact that there is an international series happening in their city.

And those who know about it, don’t know where to get the tickets.

The organisers, meanwhile, are hopeful that the situation will improve in the coming games. They believe if we get a highly competitive match on Sunday, a buzz will be created and it will attract crowd from the entire region.

Nevertheless, on Saturday, those who were queuing in front the ticket counter, consider this series as a proud moment for the state of Uttarakhand as it is going enter in the map of world cricket. They feel both Afghanistan and Bangladesh will get decent support from the stands on Sunday and in the next two games.

Hence, let’s hope on Sunday evening (all three matches will start from 8 PM) both teams will put up a combative spectacle on an untested spin-friendly pitch at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Dehradun to start, what is expected to be a prosperous cricketing journey for the region.