Bhupathi justifies decision to drop Paes for Davis Cup

The Indian captain hinted Paes could have been selected if he had practised with the squad right from the start of the camp.

India's captain Mahesh Bhupathi (centre) with his team in Bengaluru on Thursday.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy


India Davis Cup captain Mahesh Bhupathi defended his decision to pick Rohan Bopanna ahead of Leander Paes, saying that the former poses a bigger threat on the court.

“The conditions are quick here. Rohan has been serving well, and seeing the ball well. He has had a good start to the year,” Bhupathi said here on Thursday.

Bopanna had won the Chennai Open in January (partnering Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan), and reached the Dubai Championships final last month (partnering Marcin Matkowski). Paes, on the hand, won the Leon Challenger event a few days ago. Bhupathi hinted Paes could have been selected if he had practised with the squad right from the start of the camp. Owing to his tournament commitments at Leon, Paes arrived here on Tuesday night.

Read: Mukerjea: ‘Paes sacking sad but step in right direction’

"These boys have been here since Sunday. Sriram Balaji and Rohan Bopanna have been playing a lot of sets together. Unfortunately for Leander, yesterday was his first day. He played three games before it started raining. Doubles in Davis Cup is always a high stress situation, so throwing Leander and Balali in would have been a roll of the dice for me. If I had a full team here on Sunday and Monday, I probably would have had time to make a dedicated decision,” he said.

Clear style

But when reminded that he himself had turned up on a Wednesday for many a tie during his playing days, Bhupathi said, "I think every captain has a different style. I have made my style pretty clear to my squad. I run the team the way I think it should be run. I think that 25 years of experience should give me the ability to do so."

This is not the end of the road for Paes, Bhupathi insisted. “Him being on the team is invaluable in terms of experience and energy,” he said.

Uzbekistan’s press conference provided a lighter moment, when doubles player Farrukh Dustov took on the role of translator. A journalist asked the captain, Petr Lebed, if he was surprised that Paes was not picked. “There was no surprise. We were expecting this,” Dustov said, on behalf of Lebed.

Another journalist then pointed out to Dustov that only the previous day, he had stated he expected Paes to feature in the doubles rubber. An amused Dustov replied, “The previous question was for Lebed - I only translated for him. Me personally, yes, I am surprised, but Lebed is not.”

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