Mahesh Bhupathi benches veterans Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna
Leander Paes (left) with Mahesh Bhupathi (Image Credit: India Today)
Kolkata: The non playing captain of the Indian Davis Cup team Mahesh Bhupathi in a bold decision, has decided to go with young and fresh players in the Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan. In order to do so, the skipper left out two of the veterans, Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna and put them in the reserves category.
The final call was taken by the Chairman of the All India Tennis Association (AITA) selection committee in consultation with the newly elected skipper. The team now consists of Ramkumar Ramanathan (ranked 269), Yuki Bhambri (ranked 307), Prajnesh Gunneswaran (ranked 325) and N Sriram Balaji (ranked 350). Also, a seventh player Vishnu Vardhan has been added for practice. Bhupathi although made it clear that if required, he would call one of the two veterans and include them in the squad. He justified that the selected players had been playing exceptionally well and hence, he needed to acknowledge their performances.
The fallout between Bhupathi and Paes had been the talk of the town ever since 2012 during the London Olympics. Bhupathi allegedly wanted to pair up with Bopanna but had to face interventions from Paes. He had also written to the AlTA regarding this. After this incident, there have been several occasions when both the players have taken a jibe at each other. After India lost to Spain in the Rio Olympics, Paes had taken a dig at Bopanna by saying that India had sent the wrong mixed-doubles team to Rio and he should have been in place of Bopanna. This didn’t go down well with both Sania Mirza and Bopanna, who retaliated immediately.
Is it because of these reasons that the two were left out of the squad? Did Bhupathi use the power of his position to insult Paes? Is the tiff between Paes and Bopanna harmful for the squad? Questions like these are bound to arise. However, both Bopanna and Paes haven’t been in their best of forms recently. Both the star players were knocked out of the Indian Wells tournament and also lost their first-round matches in the Challenger event in Irving, Texas.