The Indian team went through a cheerful but intense training session to sharpen its game in bright sunlight on Saturday afternoon, on the eve of its departure to Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan, which is going through sub-zero temperature.
Quite understandably, Leander Paes was the centre of attraction as many fans had gathered at the venue with their kids to have a glimpse of the evergreen champion in action.
Even as he went through training with understandable professionalism, Leander, into his 30th year of Davis Cup service, was nice to the fans, kids especially with his inspiring interaction with them.
Captain Rohit Rajpal said that the final touches were being given to the arrangements, even as the news trickled in that Sasi Kumar Mukund had withdrawn from the tie , owing to an ankle injury suffered during the doubles match in the Challenger in Portugal.
Coach Zeeshan Ali said that the Indian team was quite big in number and capable of taking such setbacks in its stride for the tie against Pakistan. Of course, a weak team even in full strength with no player in the top-1000, would be missing its two leading heroes, as Aisam-Ul-Haq Qureshi and Aqeel Khan had pulled out, upset about the tie being shifted out of Islamabad by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
‘’We are not concerned about the situation. Injuries happen, especially at the end of the season, as the players compete for about 35 to 40 weeks in a year. We have enough players to take care of singles and doubles’’, said Zeeshan Ali.
Sumit Nagal had trained on Friday, and was busy with other commitments like visiting his school as chief guest on Saturday.
‘’Sumit was fit and hitting the ball well yesterday. He must be keen to get his first win in Davis Cup’’, said Zeeshan.
Sumit had made his debut in Davis Cup against Rafael Nadal and company in 2016, when India played the World Group playoff in Delhi. He also got to play against Ze Zhang in China last year.
‘’The players have all been competing in the circuit regularly and are sharp. If they want to give back by inspiring the kids, it is fine. We will have about five days of practice in Nur Sultan and that will be enough’’, said the coach.
Zeeshan was particularly appreciative of Sriram Balaji for training with the team, even though he was not playing the Davis Cup.
‘’All the players got together nicely and trained with such energy. They all play such high quality game. The original idea for the camp in Delhi was to compete in Islamabad. Even when things changed, we stuck to the plan, and it was good to have all the players together’,"said Zeeshan.
It was indeed an inspiration for the young players to have Leander back in the team.
‘’Leander has so much experience. The young players can learn a lot from him’’, said Zeeshan.
The coach was understandably disappointed about Pakistan not being able to play to strength.
‘’It is sad that Aisam and Aqeel are not playing. We had always been focused on the best team, even if the tie was to be played in Pakistan. Anyway, a win is a win and we are looking forward for better times in Davis Cup’’, summed up the coach.
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