Why no reserve? Jeevan questions selection call after Paes withdrawal

"How does Leander get to wait till the 11th hour before deciding.We should have had a reserve named," doubles specialist Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan said.

Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan was upset about a slot going waste in the six-member Indian men’s squad.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

The sudden withdrawal of Leander Paes, who has won five gold medals in the Asian Games, has triggered some pertinent questions in the tennis circles.

Even though the plight of the Olympic gold medallist was pitiable, as he had to depend on the singles prowess of partners like Ramkumar Ramanathan and Sumit Nagal to boost India’s chances of a doubles medal, him pulling the trigger at the last minute has not won Leander much sympathy.

‘’Why did Leander wait till the last second’’, is the question in everyone’s lips. And Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan expressed it without any hesitation in his own way, "How does Leander get to wait till the 11th hour before deciding."

READ: Leander Paes pulls out of Asian Games

"We should have had a reserve named," continued Jeevan on Friday, quite upset about a slot going waste in the six-member Indian men’s squad.

It is another matter that the 45-year-old Leander kept pleading for a suitable doubles partner from outside the six-member squad, from the national federation, for the last few weeks.

The question that had begged an answer right at the time of selection, as to why the selectors did not have two doubles teams surfaced again. ‘’Sumit Nagal for doubles is a joke,’’ said Jeevan, unable to hide his disappointment.

Leander Paes pulled out of Asian Games due to lack of a specialist doubles partner.   -  R. RAGU

 

There was no doubt about the singles ability of Sumit, the Asian Indoor Games champion, who had won a Challenger in Bengaluru. But, with Ramkumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran taking the two available singles slots for India in the Asian Games, in the absence of Yuki Bhambri, Sumit getting the nod was indeed a shock.

For the record, Sumit Nagal had won the Wimbledon junior doubles title in 2015, but it was felt that in the highly competitive doubles field, India had better options in Purav Raja, Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, Sriram Balaji and Vishnu Vardhan.

Saketh Myneni, who had won the mixed doubles gold with Sania Mirza and the doubles silver with Sanam Singh in the last edition in Incheon, would have been the ideal choice, as he is exceptional in singles as well, but he has been grappling with injury and a slump in ranking.

ALSO READ: 'Leander’s absence is big blow for us'

"Last time, Divij Sharan stepped in when Somdev Devvarman pulled out’’, Jeevan recalled about the turn of events with the Indian team in the Asian Games in Korea, which featured an additional team event.

Having missed many months of tennis owing to personal reasons — for the first time in his career that Leander had to skip a series of tournaments despite being fully fit — the 18-time Grand Slam champion has no time to make the numbers in the Asian Games. He would rather utilise the time to resurrect his dipping rank in the professional circuit.

Busy in the American circuit, in the run-up to the US Open, Leander was understandably reluctant to travel across the globe to fight for a lost cause.

With Rohan Bopanna nursing an injury for the last few weeks, and not having played any match in the circuit after withdrawing from the doubles second round of Wimbledon, Leander delayed his announcement just to see whether he could partner Divij Sharan, and get a realistic shot at a medal.

Once Bopanna landed in Palembang for the Games, it was time for Leander to make his announcement.

A bunch of doubles experts including Jeevan simply got trapped in the cross fire.