The Afghanistan cricket team hammered Bangladesh by 6 wickets to take a decisive 2-0 lead in the T-20 series at the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium in Dehradun on Tuesday night. The warm response of the sports lovers, who got to watch the first ever international cricket series in the hill state, has injected hope that Uttarakhand’s capital will be hosting Indian Premier League (IPL) matches too in future. The Afghan-Bangla series has witnessed big crowds, which surprised both the foreign teams. The final match of the T-20 series will be played on Thursday.

In the past, there were talks that Kings XI Punjab might play its IPL matches in Dehradun. Cricket insiders say a key official of the Indian Premier League (IPL) had expressed desire of hosting some matches of KXIP in Dehradun as the crowd capacity of the stadium in Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, and Dehradun was almost same — 25,000 seats. Dharamsala has already hosted several matches in the previous editions of the cash-rich league.

The IPL official reportedly wanted the capacity of Dehradun stadium increased by 5,000 seats, but the then Congress government did not show much interest.

The Afghan side is in great form and after registering a comprehensive 45-run win over Bangladesh in the first match of the series on 3 June, they outplayed their rival team by 6 wickets in the second T-20 match to take 2-0 lead in the series. SunRisers Hyderabad’s spinner and Afghan team’s strike bowler Rashid Khan is star of the Dehradun crowd. The moment he comes to bowl, the cricket fans go wild chanting his name. Keeping up his good show, Khan has claimed 7 wickets in the two matches played so far in Uttarakhand.

Even Rashid was amazed by the crowd response to the Afghan-Bangla series. He said, “We get love of the crowd wherever we play, but the response of the Dehradun crowd has amazed us. It is our home ground and the crowd response is vital for our team.”

Despite two foreign teams playing, the first match attracted over 20,000 and the second match over 10,000 sports fans in Dehradun. Not many had expected such response from the local cricket fans. As photographer Anil Rawat said, “For watching any international or IPL match, one has to go to big cities, which involves a lot of time and money. The Dehradun matches evoked warm response as it provided sports fans the first opportunity to watch any international cricket match in the city, that too in a new stadium with modern facilities.”

Uttarakhand is yet to obtain affiliation from the Board of Control for Cricket in India. Young and talented cricketers from the hill state are forced to migrate to other states for pursuing their sports career. IPL sensation Rishabh Pant is the latest to join the bandwagon. Rishabh hails from Roorkee and moved out of Uttarakhand to make a career in cricket.

The international Afghan-Bangla series has, however, done some positive development for cricket in this part of the world.

PC Verma, secretary of the Cricket Association of Uttarakhand, said, “Dehradun can turn an ideal location for IPL teams. The infrastructure and location of the city is perfect to host big matches. The response of the Afghanistan versus Bangladesh series will inspire different IPL team managements to link their cricket activities with Dehradun.”

Many IPL matches face stadium availability problem, some face harsh weather and low attendance challenge. Dehradun possibly provides decent sporting facilities than many.

The Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium was inaugurated in December 2016. Constructed with a budget of Rs 237 crore, the stadium offers seating capacity for 25,000 spectators. Fitted with floodlights to conduct day-night matches, LCD screen and other modern amenities, the construction work of the Rajiv Gandhi International Cricket Stadium had began in 2013.