England pay visit to Dalai Lama's home
England took a break from the usual routine today, with a visit to the Dalai Lama's north Indian residence.
The team arrived in Dharamsala yesterday evening and opted not to practise, instead choosing to take to Himalayan foothills where the Tibetan spiritual leader is based.
The playing squad, as well as a handful of support staff, attended the Buddhist temple complex at McLeod Ganj, around 15 kilometres from the team base.
They headed to the hills in two buses to take in a visit far removed from their normal programme of hotel restaurants and fielding drills.
England stayed for half-an-hour but did not meet the Dalai Lama, although there is a chance they still might at the fifth one-day international on Sunday.
The Dalai Lama's office confirmed that the fixture is not currently in His Holiness' diary but said that it was still possible he may make an appearance at the city's first international match.
Amazingly, it would not be his first taste of top-level cricket. Indian Premier League franchise Kings XI Punjab use the HPCA Stadium as one of their home venues and the Nobel Peace Prize winner attended matches in 2010 and 2011.
Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler was among those who took advantage of a memorable away day and could not hide his enthusiasm for the visit.
“It is a really exciting part of the world to be in and to come here and experience these things as part of an England tour is very special,” he said.
“I've never been to a place like this before. A trip to a Buddhist temple is very exciting.
“Seeing different parts of the world and experiencing these things is really important. It's one of the perks of touring.
“It's exciting when you come to different countries and it's important that you get to experience some culture. Sometimes you're a bit restricted in that.”
It is all a far cry from some of the England side's previous destinations this month, with hundreds of waiting fans camped outside the hotels in Rajkot and Ranchi leaving the players virtually room-bound.
Computer games are a favourite past-time of many young players, but Buttler was delighted to leave the consoles in their boxes today.
“The computers are off at the moment,” he said.
“They've become a big part of touring life, with people carrying them around with them, but it's always nice to get outside and in a place like this it would be a waste not to.”