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The Ol' Blighty

Between matches, there's much apart from cricket to keep the visitor occupied in England

The Ol' Blighty
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WHO would not want to go with the Indian team for the World Cup to cheer them on to repeat their '83 feat? The team arrives in London in the beginning of May. It would be any cricket lover's wish to visit Lord's and join the tour on non-match days, which includes the Long Room, a cricketing art gallery, the museum housing the Ashes, the Mound Stand and the Lord's Shop.

Sports lovers can also enjoy the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Museum tour, and catch a sight of the famed Centre Court; the gentleman's changing rooms; view videos of all-time greats in action and wide-ranging displays that bring to life the history of lawn tennis.

But the Indian team will miss these sights as they proceed straight to Leicester to spend the first fortnight there. Known for its multicultural society, Leicester has the biggest saree shops in Britain and a multitude of Asian restaurants. So the process of acclimatisation would be gentle.

India's warm-up matches are at Leicester against Leicestershire, at Headingly, Leeds, against Yorkshire, and at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, against Nottinghamshire. Leeds, Yorkshire's capital, is at the doorstep of the Yorkshire dales—Bronte country at its best. Leeds boasts of the largest Marks & Spencer's outlet, some of Britain's finest night clubs and more parks than any other British city. Nearby is Bradford, which houses the National Film and Photography Museum with galleries devoted to advertising, electronic imaging and the digital age. An IMAX cinema, Kodak Museum and a children's gallery complete the experience.

Leeds is 40 miles from Manchester, gateway to England's north country. Manchester has a pulsating nightlife and the largest concentration of colleges. It also takes pride in having Europe's largest indoor shopping complex at the Trafford Center.

About half-an-hour afield is Sheffield, with its new Centre for Popular Music, the world's first attraction to celebrate the art of popular music. Using audio-visual presentations, interactive exhibits, real and virtual instruments and collections of musical memorabilia, visitors can unravel stories of music through the ages.

India's first match is at Hove, against South Africa. The twin cities of Hove and Brighton are in Sussex, where Ajay Jadeja can seek inspiration from his illustrious ancestors Ranji and Duleep-sinhji, who played for the county. Just 50 miles away from London, the Brighton Royal Pavilion, a palace with Indian domes, Islamic minarets and subcontinental interiors should make the Indians feel at home. A comfortable excursion, Royal Tunbridge Wells is where Kapil Dev turned the tide against Zimbabwe in 1983. Sussex is also home to Rudyard Kipling and perhaps the Indians will create a tale of their own with a win against odds.

From Hove, returning to Leicester should feel like coming back home as they take on Zimbabwe, before moving on to Bristol for the match against Kenya. A small detour will land you at Alton Towers, Britain's most popular theme park. Sites en route: Shakespeare's birthplace at Stratford-upon-Avon, Cadbury World near Birmingham, the Natural Exhibition Center at Birmingham and Oxford. Pass through picturesque Cotswold country to arrive at Bristol, where the beautiful Avon Gorge is spanned by Brunnel's Clifton Suspension Bridge, an engineering marvel of yesteryear. A few miles up the river is Bath, a lovely spa town with Roman remains.The Bath Spa Hotel was once known as the Vellore House, owned by an English army officer who served in India.

Finally to Birmingham for a showdown with hosts England. Land of bhangra and balti cuisine. And it remains to be seen whether we will be saying balle balle if India moves on to the super six and then on to the grand finale at Lord's, the mecca of cricket.


(The author is the India representative of the British Tourist Authority)

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