The All India Tennis Federation’s (AITA) decision not to consider Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna to play for India till June 2014 for refusing to team up with Leander Paes for August’s London Games is not a bolt from the blue.
Bhupathi and Bopanna shouldn’t be too surprised at the punishment meted out since they virtually refused to represent their country on the biggest sporting stage. No one can be bigger than the game even though Mahesh has done India proud in the past and still has some fuel left to overcome reputed opponents.
Bopanna stuck to his guns in the whole fiasco which was not easy to do since he was the younger man, who was putting his career on the block. His courage should be admired but not his sporting spirit because sport teaches one to take the rough with the smooth and there cannot always be an ideal situation.
Where does Leander Paes figure in all this, is a fair question. While the AITA has been trigger-happy post the Olympics debacle, they would do well to question Paes about the issues players have with him. There must have been strong reasons behind the players refusing to play with him.
Paes said all the right things to the media in the initial segment of the controversy, but he probably undid all that when he showed reluctance to partner Vishnu Vardhan, who he later called to America to train with him.
The AITA must tackle Paes too before closing the book on the matter.
A closure is critical because this is the time to look beyond Leander and Mahesh. While Bopanna’s chances of returning before June 2014 are not dull, the victorious performances of Yuki Bhambri, Vishnu Vardhan, Divij Sharan and Sanam Singh at the Davis Cup tie against New Zealand provide much hope.