| Anand Amritraj
Busan: It’s no secret that Anand Amritraj had thrown his hat into the ring when the All India Tennis Association (AITA) was looking for Jaidip Mukerjea’s successor three seasons back.
The seniormost of the three Amritraj brothers didn’t have his wish fulfilled and the job went to Ramesh Krishnan. But Anand, an accomplished doubles player who donned India colours for over 15 years, didn’t give up hope of captaining India.
When he got a call from AITA three weeks back saying that they wanted him to take charge of the Asian Games men’s team, Anand was delighted. Ironically, the offer came following Ramesh’s withdrawal from the Busan assignment.
“I was always interested in this job… I am really happy and honoured to be India captain,” Anand said after the team’s first training session at the Geumjeong Tennis Stadium this afternoon.
This isn’t the best of times to take charge of a team, which has two superstars stationed on diametrically opposite poles. Ramesh has been facing the music for the past two years, now it’s Anand’s turn.
“I am not anticipating any problem,” Anand said just hours into his new role. “I have known Leander (Paes) since his BAT days and even Mahesh I know quite well. I’ll do my bit to ensure there’s peace around when we are working.”
One of the first things Anand did after accepting the AITA offer was to check Paes and Bhupathi’s thoughts on the Asian Games. “They both committed to play doubles in team event whenever necessary and the individual doubles event,” Anand informed. “Both of them are very patriotic guys and want to do well for India, I am sure they’ll put their best foot forward.”
Anand agrees that the former world No. 1 duo needs to get some practice together. It didn’t happen this morning with Paes being on court 4 and Bhupathi on court 8. “It’s just the first day, they will hit some balls together some time later. It’s important because the last time they played together was in May.”
Anand’s bigger worry is how to squeeze out a singles win against top seeds Uzbekistan, India’s likely quarter final opponents. In first-round action on Wednesday, India and Uzbekistan should come through East Timor and Mongolia, respectively.
“Leander hasn’t played much singles of late, the second player will be inexperienced. The Uzbeks are all tough players, it won’t be easy for us,” Anand observed. Rohan Bopanna is almost certain to get the nod for second singles ahead of Sunil Kumar.
Anand was peeved at Japan using their No. 1 player Takao Suzuki’s ranking to get a high seeding in the team competition here.
“Suzuki is playing in the Japan Open this week, how can he play here then'” he argued.
Had Suzuki not been officially in the team, India may have pipped Japan to the fourth seeds’ slot. And that would have helped them avoid a top team in the last eight.
All of Anand’s focus is now on Busan. He is aware that he could be Davis Cup captain once Ramesh decides to call it a day, but doesn’t want to count his chicken till they are hatched. “Maybe this is a stepping stone for me, we’ll see…"