India’s Olympic tennis saga shows one player (Mahesh Bhupathi) willing to play for his country only if teamed up with a partner (Rohan Bopanna) of his choice and the other (Leander Paes) indicating that he is willing to partner anyone this English summer.
However, there is more to it than just this. Bhupathi has not emerged smelling of roses simply because not many spurn the opportunity of representing his/her country at the Olympic Games.
And while Paes has been known to wear his heart on the sleeve, it cannot be denied, considering his turbulent times with Bhupathi, that he too wouldn’t have been happy with what the selectors have finalised.
The All India Tennis Association have actually been high-handed and preferred to ignore the fact that Paes and Bhupathi are in no position to play together. Their moral high ground has a ridiculous ring to it. It’s fine to give peace a chance, but for that, the association’s head Anil Khanna should have been on a plane to Europe and got Paes and Bhupathi together to convince them to pair up for the sake of the country.
Both players may be at war, but they would have also been honest in their objection. According to how that meeting panned out, Khanna could have then directed the selectors to pick the double team/teams.
Sure, one of the players would have not been pleased, but at least one half of the squad would have stepped on to court with the belief of winning a medal.
With Bhupathi not willing to budge, he cannot partner Sania Mirza in the mixed doubles, a category which reflects a good medal chance for India. Do India’s tennis selectors really believe Paes-Bhupathi can pull it off at their age and at this stage of their sour relationship? Optimism is not a bad thing as long as it does not end up being impractical.