Watching a match being played on the well-manicured courts of Wimbledon be it on television or if you’re lucky, live action, has a charm of its own. Any lover of tennis will vouch for it. Yours truly included. So, as we brace ourselves for another edition of Wimbledon, it promises to be a series of mouth-watering on-court clashes in white, with dollops of fresh cream and strawberries for company and entertaining crowds, all neatly gift-wrapped in trademark English tradition.
Several years ago, I was lucky to have done a tour of the hallowed turf (during off-season). The experience was enriching, and left a lasting impression. One area in particular that stood out was the unbelievable passion with which the authorities as well as Wimbledon’s residents leave no stone unturned to promote the area, not just as a sporting, but also as a tourist-friendly destination. From the time we stepped off the tube to head to the AELTC (All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club), it was obvious we were in tennis country.
Tourist-friendly signage throughout our 1.2-mile walk, apart from encounters with friendly pedestrians and helpful arterial transport, made it a most delightful experience before even stepping on Centre Court. Once there, it was a one-way trip to tennis paradise. Highly-informed guides were seen all over the courts with tiny, manageable groups. Their sense of pride was hard to miss. Informative tidbits, trivia and adequate time added to its aura.
Later, our visit to its museum made for a fascinating chapter in time travel. The precision and detail with which exhibits were displayed wowed us; we couldn’t miss how interactivity played a key role to ensure the modern-day (and not necessarily tennis-loving) visitor as well as children were suitably engaged.
It got us thinking. With cricket being such a big part of our national psyche, what stops our country from working towards this end? Why can’t the big guns and powers in cricket promote our rich cricketing history with cricket tourism, complete with state-of-the-art museums and tours during season? It can go a long way in propelling India as a global sporting destination. Mumbai, for one, will benefit in a huge way from this with two famous stadiums, its many maidans, and a thriving club culture, not to forget it being home to countless icons. All of it can add up to a marvelous itinerary for the discerning sports tourist from any part of the world.
It’s an idea worth considering, especially where the possibilities are immense. We can’t wait for the ball to be hit out of the park.
The writer is Features Editor of mid-day