MUMBAI: Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate played cricket with children and laid a wreath to victims of the 2008 Mumbai attacks as they began their tour of India on Sunday.
The royal couple displayed handy batting skills on the western Indian city’s Oval Maidan after meeting representatives from three charities and chatting with Indian cricket legends Sachin Tendulkar and Dilip Vengsarkar.
Kate, wearing a long pink and green printed tunic dress by Indian designer Anita Dongre, connected well with a few shots while William even smashed a six, albeit with a tennis ball and a very short boundary.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge received a warm reception on their first official visit to the subcontinent from a population long fascinated with the monarchy of its former colonial masters.
William’s mother Princess Diana caused a sensation when she was photographed looking forlorn in front of the Taj Mahal in 1992, and his imminent visit with Kate to the marble mausoleum at Agra has India’s media abuzz.
Other highlights of their week-long trip include a visit to Kaziranga National Park in the remote northeastern state of Assam and a two-day spell in Bhutan, where they will meet the Himalayan nation’s king and queen and embark on a six-hour hike.
They touched down in Mumbai shortly after 11 a.m. (0530 GMT) and laid the wreath at a memorial at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel around 12:45 pm, where security was tight.
“TRH (their royal highnesses) then chatted to @TajMahalMumbai staff who helped protect guests during the attacks,” which killed 166 people, many in the luxury-five-star hotel, Kensington Palace tweeted.
At the maidan they learnt about the work of three local charities who help some of Mumbai’s most vulnerable children. They also took an open-top bus tour with children who had received help from an non-governmental organization.
After the cricket, William and Kate headed to the ancient Banganga Tank, part of a temple complex and a hugely significant site in Hindu mythology, where makeshift homes sit beneath luxury skyscrapers in the plush Malabar Hill district.
Presented with garlands on arrival, the couple scattered petals in the water and were due to meet impoverished children from the slums around India’s financial capital.
In the evening the royal couple will schmooze with Bollywood film stars and leading lights from the Indian business community at a red-carpet event at the Taj Mahal Palace hotel.
William, 33, who is second in line to the throne behind his father Prince Charles, and Kate, 34, will wrap up their Mumbai stay on Monday morning by meeting young entrepreneurs.
They then head to New Delhi where they will have lunch with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, among other events, before heading to Assam and Bhutan and finishing their trip in Agra.
“This will be one of the most ambitious tours their Royal Highnesses have ever undertaken and promises to be the most colorful tour to date,” British High Commissioner (ambassador) to India Dominic Asquith said in a statement Friday. AFP