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regular-article-logo Friday, 21 June 2024

Barmy Army, the English cricket team’s travelling band of loyals revel, never mind the cricket

Parties to treks, visiting supporters have a ball

Indranil Majumdar Dharamshala Published 08.03.24, 10:31 AM
Hunger game: England did not have a run feast, but their supporters surely had a treat during the first day’s play in Dharamsala

Hunger game: England did not have a run feast, but their supporters surely had a treat during the first day’s play in Dharamsala Picture: Barmy Army

Nestled above the quaint town in the foothills of the Himalayas, the serene setting of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium gives the hilly terrain a distinct identity. The snow-peaked mountains of the Dhauladhar range provide a pristine grandeur.

Not surprising then that the travelling English fans nearly outnumbered the Indians’ attendance on the morning of the opening day of the final Test. Even a dead rubber could keep nearly 1,500 visiting spectators captivated and made the English players feel at home. But by afternoon, the surroundings changed as the Indians made their presence felt, both on and off the field.

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The Barmy Army, the English cricket team’s travelling band of loyals, have been all over Dharamsala for the last couple of days: the streets and the nondescript lanes, the bars and the restaurants, the temples and the shopping centres. Some have even been out trekking since dawn. “We started getting requests for this match since the fixtures were announced in July and by August, there were several requests to be part of the group,” said Barmy Army’s Chuck Adolphy.

The group organised a pre-Test party at Hotel Dha­uladhar Heights Resort on Wednesday evening which included a Q&A session with former England off-spinner Graeme Swann. A charity auction for the African Caribbean Engagement (ACE) programme raised £7,500 from several items which included a signed cap from the 100th-Test man Jonny Bairstow and a painting by Andy Brown, who has been travelling to all the venues.

“I have been to the Newlands in Cape Town but this breathtaking view... Can’t believe this; the frequent changes in the temperatures and its different hues at every hour is just amazing,” said Andy Freeland, who is travelling with his wife and has made his own arrangements.

Another attraction has been the chance to connect with the Dalai Lama at McLeodganj in the upper reaches of the Kangra Valley. Online requests for a meeting haven’t been successful for most though.

Their fans’ enthusiasm, however, didn’t reflect on the England players’ performance. It was more about soaking in the atmosphere than the quality of cricket offered by the visitors.

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