Bhupathi: ‘Selection criteria not met by Leander’

Speaking to the media after the final day of the India–Uzbekistan Asia Oceania Group I Round Two tie, the India Davis Cup captain sought to refute allegations levelled at him by Leander Paes.

Mahesh Bhupathi speaks to the media at the conclusion of the Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan on Sunday.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

 

Days after Leander Paes’ outburst for not being picked in the Davis Cup squad, the war of words between him and captain Mahesh Bhupathi escalated on Sunday.

Bhupathi released Whatsapp conversations between the two to address the allegations only for Paes, through a statement later, to call the move of making public a private exchange “unbecoming of a Davis Cup Captain.”

Speaking to the media after the final day, Bhupathi repeated what had transpired between the two and all but shut the door on Paes’ inclusion in the side for the World Group Playoff to be held in September.

“A day before the selection committee met I told him candidly that I was going to ask for six in the team,” said Bhupathi. “And that I would respect his decision if he decided not to come and if he wanted to wait till he was guaranteed a spot in the four.”

“He deserves the respect after what he’s achieved for the country to be given the option to be in the six. We gave him the option and he readily took it. So after that, to sulk about not being in the four was a bit unprofessional.”

Bhupathi denied Paes’ charge that the criteria for selection weren’t consistent. Paes was peeved that he was denied a spot even after having won a Challenger event the week before whereas Rohan Bopanna had three successive first-round defeats.

“There were five things in my criteria,” the 42-year-old said. “Fitness was one but Leander was the only one who did not do the fitness test at the place I asked him to. So I don’t think he should be the one boasting about criteria.”

“He’s extremely proud that he won that Challenger. Rohan played Novak Djokovic (Indian Wells) and Nick Kyrgios (Miami). So it’s not a debate that I want to get into. None of them [criteria] were really met.”

Bhupathi also didn’t take kindly to the fact that Paes left after the first day of the tie. In a Facebook post later he called this “the final nail in the coffin.”

“A six-man squad is to build the team. If you don’t make the team, it’s for so many different reasons. It’s not to be here till the team is announced and go.” 

Reiterating his belief in having just one doubles player in the final four, Bhupathi said his choice would be Bopanna going forward.

“Rohan is the No. 1 doubles player in India by far. Unless something untoward happens from now till September, it’s going to be remain like that.”

 

On his part, Paes stuck to his guns 

“The main criteria for selection was form. That's clearly mentioned in the exchange. This was not followed when it came to final selection. I was never categorically told that I would not be playing. But it was apparent that the decision was made before I arrived in Bengaluru. This is what I found unnecessary and disrespectful.”

Later on Facebook, Bhupathi called into question Paes’ attitude all through his career, saying that he took the Davis Cup spot for granted and had scant respect for others. To this, Paes said, “Talk is cheap, history books, however, don't lie.”