Leander Paes back in India’s Davis Cup team

For Anand Amritraj, the previous Davis Cup skipper, it was Paes the thinker which has stood out.

The tremendous run by Leander, right from the Australian Open when he made the third round with Purav Raja, apart from the success in the Challenger circuit and the Tour event in Dubai, convinced the selectors that he was a better choice than Divij Sharan who had a marginally better rank.   -  PTI

Leander Paes has been selected in the Indian Davis Cup team for the Asia-Oceania group-1 tie against China to be staged on outdoor hard courts in Tianjin, China, on April 6 and 7.

It was an interesting development after the war of words when Leander was not played in the Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan last year. “Great chance… We are going with the full team’’, was the sharp comment of captain Mahesh Bhupathi, who made it clear that he would not elaborate any further, and that he would make his next comment only at the draw ceremony.

With the new format allowing a country to field a five-member team, the selectors, with former Davis Cup captain SP Misra as the Chairman, chose the 44-year-old Paes to partner Rohan Bopanna for the doubles rubber.

“It is always an honour to play for India. I respect Rohan’s talent and am looking forward to playing with him against the Chinese. I am looking forward to wearing the Blue again’’, said Leander, who had really been on a hot pace in recent weeks in the professional circuit.

The tremendous run by Leander, right from the Australian Open when he made the third round with Purav Raja, apart from the success in the Challenger circuit and the Tour event in Dubai, convinced the selectors that he was a better choice than Divij Sharan who had a marginally better rank.

Not to disappoint the 44th ranked Divij, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) announced him as the reserve.

Of course, the top three singles players in terms of rankings, Yuki Bhambri (110), Ramkumar Ramanathan (135) and Sumit Nagal (223) picked themselves, even though there was a case for Prajnesh Gunneswaran ranked 235.

The 20-year-old Sumit had possibly clinched his berth with the title that he won in the $100,000 Challenger in Bengaluru, when he beat Yuki along the way.

Purav Raja who was part of the team that played Canada in the World Group play-off tie in September last year, in partnership with Bopanna, went out of the reckoning with his rank of 62, as compared to 46 of the seasoned Leander.

With s 90-35 win-loss record in Davis Cup, Leander had last played the tie against New Zealand last year in Pune, when Vishnu Vardhan became his partner following the last minute withdrawal by an injured Saketh Myneni.

Even though everything looked smooth, there was indeed a storm brewing quietly. The AITA conceded as much in its statement, in which it mentioned that the Executive Committee which met on Saturday had “noted the reservations expressed by some of the players’’.

As always, the Executive Committee directed the selection committee to “select the best team irrespective of the reservations. Any issues between the players had to be settled in a nice manner in the interest of the nation, between themselves’’, the AITA remarked in a statement.

Apart from SP Misra, the selection committee had Balram Singh, Nandan Bal, Rohit Rajpal and Zeeshan Ali as the members. The AITA secretary general Hironmoy Chatterjee, joint secretaries Suman Kapur and Anil Dhupar, apart from treasurer Raktim Saikia, also joined the selection committee meeting held on Sunday, possibly to ensure the execution of the AITA’s line of action.

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