A SIGNIFICANT cricket tournament takes place in June, one where daring batsmanship will be amply rewarded and where visiting teams hope to steal the hosts’ glory. And we don’t mean the World Cup in England, either. Because while Eoin Morgan and his team are reverse-sweeping and switch-hitting there, an inter-village cricket tournament will be taking place in the meadows of the Indian Himalayas’ Saryu Valley — and visitors can participate for the first time.
Held each year close to the Nepalese border at an altitude of 6,500ft, with snow-capped Himalayan peaks glinting behind, the contest is arranged by eight villages to celebrate the spring harvest’s culmination.
This year, tourism firm Village Ways will be entering and is inviting people to join its team for five morning matches over ten nights. Experience isn’t required, although anyone capable of bowling a wrong’un is definitely, well, a right’un.
Expect some unusual rules. Field sizes and pitch limits are somewhat arbitrary, says Village Ways director Manisha Pande, while hitting the vegetation helps.
‘If any ball first hits a tree before being caught by the fielder, it’s not considered a dismissal,’ she says.
After each morning match, vegetable curries — using freshly harvested produce — and shady riverside picnics replace the usual afternoon teas, with plenty of time for post-match tactical debriefs.
Afternoons are a time to explore and immerse yourself in the life of these self-sustaining communities. Visitors are encouraged to check out the friendly villages, with their temples, schools and basket-weavers, honey producers and carpet-makers.
Also provided are five guided walks led by a local into the beautiful alpine countryside, following forested paths that connect mighty peaks with the fast-flowing Saryu river, through meadows where buffalo and goat herds graze, their bells tinkling. June sees the region covered by bright rhododendron blooms.
Visitors stay in guesthouses with whitewashed walls and rustic stone roofs. Another night is spent at an awe-inspiring tented camp on the ridge of a ‘bhugiyal’ meadow at nearly 10,000ft, a natural balcony to which shepherds take their goats and sheep for summer.
The tournament runs from June 2 to 15, and trips can be arranged for any ten-night period coinciding with that. Note that India’s monsoon rains usually start at the end of June.
Out of bounds
Batsmen get 12 runs if they can slog the ball all the way to distant glaciers — although global warming makes that feat harder every year. A recent report has warned that even if global warming stays at the current rate, a third of the glaciers in the Hindu Kush-Himalaya region will be lost.
■ From £893pp full board starting from Delhi, including all transfers, villageways.com
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