The birth of TOI

International Tennis Officials Nitin Kannamwar (left) and Sagar Kashyap from India... full of good ideas.-S.S. KUMAR International Tennis Officials Nitin Kannamwar (left) and Sagar Kashyap from India... full of good ideas.

Eight Indian officials did duty at Wimbledon this year and their brainstorming has led to the formation of Tennis Officials India (TOI). K. Keerthivasan takes stock.

It was a watershed moment for Indian tennis, when eight officials did duty at Wimbledon this year. When the best of minds meet, a great idea germinates. During one of the rain delays in the qualifying events at the hallowed lawns, they met and decided that there should be a body for their welfare. Thus was formed Tennis Officials India (TOI), a body that seeks to look after the interests of officials, who are International Tennis Federation certified, honour the deserving ones and discuss ways and means to improve their work.

Says Sagar Kashyap, a white badge umpire, who was on duty at Wimbledon: “We always wanted to have a body like this. When we all met during one of the rain delays at Wimbledon, we decided to form the body. The bye-laws and other things will be done soon.” Kashyap, a 25-year-old engineer, is based out of Bangalore.

Gold badge referee Nitin Kannamwar — TOI is his brainchild — says the body will protect the interests of officials and offer them a platform to voice their concerns. “We will make the Constitution and the list of office-bearers. There are lots we plan to do; felicitate those who go to the Australian Open for the first time, prepare an insurance scheme.” Kannamwar has been a linesman for six women’s finals (including 2012) and three men’s finals at Wimbledon.

Kannamwar sees a bright future for officiating, a field in which more youngsters are slowly beginning to show more interest. “The awareness started only in the last 10 years. It was only after me and Puneet Gupta started to travel around India that people started know about our profession,” he says.

At the moment, India has 17 white badges, most of them aged less than 40 years, Abhishek Mukherjee and Lalit Singh (bronze badge), Puneet Gupta (silver badge), Nitin Kannamwar and Sheetal Iyer (gold badge) all of them have proved their worth at the International level.

The 2010 Commonwealth Games in New Delhi, Kannamwar insists, played a big role in Indian officials gaining recognition on the world stage. “The world started to see the talent of our officials only after the CWG. They realised how much we were capable of. Also, the year 2012 is the best year for Indian tennis. Out of the eight officials nominated for Wimbledon, seven did line duty in the main draw,” says the 49-year-old Kannamwar.

There isn’t a better time for TOI to blossom, you think. Kannamwar strikes a note of caution. “We have sufficient number of officials. What matters is not quantity but quality. Mere numbers isn’t OK.”