I love to travel! I think I was born with wheels on my feet and have been fortunate enough to travel more than the average person. I have even lived in more places than the average person.
The Cricket World Cup has been a big part of my life. Actually, cricket has! My earliest memories are of standing on the front footrest of our old blue Vespa as my dad took me to the local cricket ground to watch a cricket match. Radio commentary gave way to a black and white TV, to a color one and then to a wide screen flat panel monster. The colors on the wall changed, and so did the addresses and the cities we lived in.
But cricket still continues to rule the living room.
As the world comes closer, and economies spiral toward a giddy height until they will probably implode one day, travel has become inseparable with cricket. Used to be, we were the only family in our neighborhood in our central Indian city who had ever been to Bombay. Now people travel to far off continents like Australia and the Caribbean for the love of cricket, and then take in the sights in their spare time.
Travel companies have capitalized on this in a big way, creating special packages enticing people to take in a new country as they cheer on the men in blue.
So we have some stadiums like Lord’s and the MCG that are old stalwarts, and some like the HPCA’s Dharamshala stadium which have been instrumental in promoting tourism in the area.
As you may have guessed, this is a post about the Cricket World Cup and travel! The cricket world cup is held every four years. Of the 11 World Cups in my lifetime, 4 have been held in England, 3 in the Indian subcontinent, 2 in Australia and New Zealand, and only 1 in South Africa and the West Indies each. Of course, the Caribbean is my absolute dream destination with all the calypso magic. But the others aren’t far behind.
Today I am going to talk about some cricket stadiums that have come up recently, some that are historic, the scenic and beautiful places they are located in, and why it is any traveler’s dream to take in a cricket match along with the surrounding sights at any of these places.
HPCA Stadium at Dharamshala
Situated at an altitude of 1,457m above sea level, this stadium boasts the fastest pitch in India. Home of the Kings XI Punjab, there hasn’t been a World Cup match here yet, but maybe there will be in 2023? Getting here can be tough, with Chandigarh being the closest airport. But the travel is worth it when you take in the beauty of the towering Himalayas.
Dharamsala or Dharamshala is where the Dalai Lama lives. I think everyone in the whole wide world knows that. And that itself can be a big draw for those with a spiritual bend of mind. The towering Himalayan ranges will captivate you too. Temples like JwalaMukhi and Brajeshwar, hang gliding at Bir and Billing, colonial vibes at Palampur or Dalhousie, the Rohtang Pass near Manali – the whole of Himachal is a tourism paradise.
Watch a match in this stadium, and plan a week’s holiday in Himachal. I did!
Sabina Park Kingston Jamaica
The West Indies ruled cricket for many years as I was growing up. Who can forget Sir Vivian Richards, or Brian Lara, Sachin’s nemesis?
Sabina Park in Kingston is remembered for Sir Gary Sobers’s 365 not out, a test record that remained unbroken for 36 years! This is also the home of the unfit pitch that resulted in an abandoned match in 1998.
Jamaican Jerk and Blue Mountain Coffee are famous the world over. Pristine beaches, crystal clear waters, and a warm and friendly people only rivaled by the warm Caribbean temperatures. The whole Caribbean archipelago is a traveler’s paradise, be it St. Lucia or St. Kitts, Grenada, Barbados, the Caymans and so on. All inclusive luxury resorts like Sandals and Beaches cater to your every whim.
I choose Sabina Park for its history, and for being the home of some zesty world famous food and coffee.
Adelaide Oval Australia
The Adelaide Oval underwent massive renovation in this decade. And it is the venue of the historic Indo-Pak World Cup 2015 match which we won. We Won! Just that is reason enough to include Adelaide on this list.
Disconnect from the world and head to Kangaroo Island. Take a road trip down Australian roads. Take in the vast Barossa, a dream destination for any foodie with its vineyards, fresh produce, art, romantic hills and valleys – need I go on?
South Australia is a different world for us. And of course, Melbourne and Victoria are close by too.
Lord’s, the home of cricket, and London
Lord’s – that venerable cricket ground is the mecca of cricket lovers. Does it need any introduction? This is a must visit on any cricket lover’s bucket list. And the city of London! Sigh! Big Ben, London Bridge, Buckingham Palace, the Thames, the crown jewels, Hyde Park, Kensigton Square, the newer London Eye and so on. Stonehenge is a short drive away if Celtic ruins are your thing.
Cricket lovers can take in many scenic grounds where county cricket is played. Green Wormsley, scenic Lynton, Arundel castle, Nottingham, Birmingham – cricket is present in every pore of England.
Most of the UK is well connected by rail making it very easy to take in a lot of the country. The spires of Oxford, Warwick Castle, Gloucester and the Cotswolds, the Lake District, Yorkshire, wild Wales or the Cornish coast beckon.
Drive farther up North to Sutherland and the Hebrides to really experience some remote locales. Take a ferry and cross over to Ireland to take in the Ring of Kerry. Stand atop a cliff on the Isle of Mull and maybe you can see the Statue of Liberty across the Atlantic?
Lord’s and the United Kingdom is one destination you can choose with your eyes closed. It will certainly not disappoint.
Newlands Cricket Ground Cape Town
The Rainbow Nation is a must on any traveler’s list. Other than the fact that it is a totally different continent, the Southern tip has always fascinated me since I read about the Cape of Good Hope in school. Trade routes around the Cape are ancient, and have big historic significance. Indians migrated to South Africa and worked as laborers cutting sugar cane. The vegetarian baniyas were the catalyst in producing Bunny Chow, South Africa’s famous curry based street food.
With its pleasant climate, Cape Town is a popular tourist destination. Table Mountain is a big draw, and looks down on the Newlands Cricket Ground. Favoring spinners, it has to be a favorite with Indian bowlers.
If South Africa is not wild enough, you can always take in a safari at Serengeti, or visit Victoria Falls. They are not that close, but well, at least you are on the same continent.
Saxton Oval in Sunny Nelson, New Zealand
Saxton Oval is probably the newest cricket ground of this World Cup, and it is situated in sunny Nelson at the northern tip of South Island. A mild oceanic climate makes for lots of outdoor activities. Mountains, beaches, forests, you can have them all here.
Kayak with the seals and penguins, walk to freshwater springs, sip wine from local vineyards, eat some fresh sweet scallops and just relax as you take in some Maori art. You might have just missed the last World Cup 2015 match hosted in Nelson, but the Abel Tasman Coast Track is not going anywhere.
Cricket or Travel? Why not both?
The ICC website provides many options to club cricket matches with tour packages. Local travel companies aren’t far behind, whether you live in Australia or India.
Cricket is the common thread among all our diversity. And every cricket fan dreams of taking in a World Cup match at a favorite venue of theirs. I have picked a ground or stadium from each continent and listed just a few popular tourist attractions in surrounding areas. I am sure I haven’t even touched the tip of the iceberg. And every reader will have different favorites (like Galle near Kandy, Sri Lanka, which was blown away by a Tsunami and completely rebuilt, perhaps).
Combining cricket and travel gives us the best of both worlds. It’s like hitting a century off 30 balls. Or maybe 36 off 6!
Join me in giving three cheers to our men in blue who are probably running between the wickets as you read this.
Maybe defending champions will take the Cricket World Cup in 2015? Amen!
I am writing this blog post to be part of Harsha Bhogle’s Blogger Dream Team. Wish me Luck!