COVID-19 scare: India may play SA in empty stadium in Dharamsala

India's Virat Kohli (L) celebrates his century during the One Day International (ODI) cricket match between India and South Africa, at Newland Stadium, on February 7, 2018, in Cape Town. / AFP PHOTO / RODGER BOSCH (Photo credit should read RODGER BOSCH/AFP via Getty Images)

Amid fears of coronavirus outbreak, the ODI between India and South Africa on Thursday may be held in an empty stadium.

Over 60 confirmed cases of coronavirus have been reported so far in the country and the picturesque stadium could wear an empty look as the two teams fight it out in the first game of the three-match series.

Close to 40 per cent of tickets of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) Stadium, some 250 km from the state capital — with a seating capacity of 22,000 — remained unsold till Wednesday, match organisers told IANS.

The officials said that in the wake of coronavirus outbreak, cricket buffs, largely foreigners, are trying to take precautionary measures by restricting themselves on travelling and attending public gatherings. Leaving the fear of foreigners aside, even the corporate houses in India preferred to give the stadium a miss.

“Hardly two-three corporate boxes have been sold out this time,” said an HPCA functionary.

On Tuesday, leg-spinner Yuzvendra Chahal had posted a photo of himself with a face mask before heading for the city.

Match organisers also said that a weather alert, which forecast rains, has further discouraged a large section of Indian fans from witnessing the match. Also the match is not happening on a weekend.

In an attempt to stop rain from playing spoilsport, officials offered their prayers at the Indrunag Temple dedicated to the rain god in the hills overlooking the stadium to appease the gods. Cricket fans too participated in the prayers. A special community kitchen was also organised there.

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