Paes peeved about Davis Cup doubles rubber exclusion

At the draw ceremony held here on Thursday morning, it was revealed that Sriram Balaji and Rohan Bopanna will represent India in the doubles match against Uzbekistan on Friday.

"The criteria was supposed to be form, which obviously doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems to fluctuate a lot," said Leander Paes.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

A disappointed Leander Paes hit out at the rationale used to drop him from the Indian Davis Cup doubles rubber. India takes on Uzbekistan in an Asia Oceania Group 1 Round Two tie here on Friday, while the doubles fixture will be held on Saturday.

At the draw ceremony held here on Thursday morning, it was revealed that Sriram Balaji and Rohan Bopanna will represent India in the doubles match.

Paes questioned the decision, saying that he was under the impression that current form held good as the criteria for selection. With Balaji being an automatic choice based on his good run in recent ITF Futures events, it was a toss up between Bopanna and Paes for the second spot.

While Bopanna reached the final of the Dubai Championship last month, he has had three first round exits in his last three tournaments. Paes took the Leon Challenger Tour title at Mexico just a few days ago.

“I was told that current form is the the criteria for selection. That being said, the team was chosen two weeks ago based on ITF form in Futures tournaments. I too won an ATP Challenger. Also, Bengaluru’s altitude is 920 metres. Leon’s altitude is over 1800 metres, which is double that of Bengaluru. When I got here yesterday morning for practice, I was hitting and feeling the ball very well. The criteria was supposed to be form, which obviously doesn’t seem to be the case. It seems to fluctuate a lot,” Paes said.

“Mahesh (Bhupathi) is the captain, so he has the right to choose whoever he wants. But, I think whatever the criteria is, it should be adhered to. At one time, it is based on rankings, the other time it is not based on ranking, but on likes and personal preferences. Sometimes its not on personal preferences, it is based on who plays deuce court and who plays on ad court. And now it is based on form. On form, you guys know better who has played better,” Paes said.

The veteran doubles star did not take kindly to being called up to the city, only to be dropped. “All this nonsense shouldn’t be there. When it comes to playing for the country. I firmly believe in one simple phone call - you are needed, or you are not needed. As simple as that. It doesn’t have to be like this,” he said.

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Paes emphasised that his love for the sport and the nation remained undiminished. “My love for the India flag, the country, and the people, is unconditional. Unconditional, no matter what. That is why I took the effort to come all the way here from Mexico, when I could so easily have worked on my ranking and my career,” he said.

The 43-year-old remained optimistic about what the future holds for him.

“Sometimes you have to take things on the chin, throw your shoulders back, and keep working hard. I would like to play more Davis Cups ties, whether I get the call or not. I will play Challenger and other tournaments which are small when you look at the career that I have had. I will work my way back again, and win like I did last year. I can guarantee that my passion for the sport and my passion to play for India is still within me. It does not get deterred by individuals,” he said.