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Doubles victim of 45-game rule

Calcutta, April 5: An early afternoon shower robbed Day I of the second singles rubber. Something more bizarre denied the large Saturday crowd of the Leander Paes-Mahesh Bhupathi mega show. What’s in store at the South Club on Sunday'

An inadequate cover, which let rainwater seep through, prevented resumption of play Friday afternoon even after the skies had cleared up fully. Today, the villain was a 45-game rule, which has been in vogue for years but has rarely been applied because such a circumstance scarcely pops up in Davis Cup.

Rule 39 of the Cup, which deals with ‘Entitlement to rest’, states: “A player who shall already have played more than 45 games in either singles or doubles, shall not be called upon to play another match the same day.”

Alistair Hunt had to battle through 53 games before outlasting Rohan Bopanna. And since captain Glenn Wilson wanted the 30-year-old to play doubles as well, the New Zealand camp was entitled to invoke this somewhat strange rule. The visitors now have to field Hunt in Sunday’s doubles, even though another rule says that the pairings can be changed till one hour before the match. “He will be playing doubles unless he’s medically unfit,” Wilson said.

For a change, it was the referee who was the most sought after person on Saturday. Japanese Nao Kawate, in fact, had his hands full since morning — from the time he ruled that the court was ready for play at 10.15 am.

Chair umpire Punit Gupta announced the match at 10.25 am. Within seconds, though, the New Zealand ‘revolt’ started and Kawate gave in to the visitors’ pressure tactics — thus changing his opinion about the state of the court. The players trooped off to the dressing-room as the new starting time was set at 11 am.

The match did get underway at 11.15. But with the court being a trifle slippery, Hunt and Wilson repeatedly drew Kawate’s attention to the couple of wet patches on the southern side. At almost every break, the captain would walk into the court and make his displeasure clear.

“I didn’t stop him as he was only worried about his player getting injured,” Kawate offered.

The match went on uninterrupted but Kawate was still in the thick of action. He overruled the chair umpire on one occasion — to the crowd’s dismay — armed by another rule, which gives him that licence when a local umpire is involved.

It was a tough day in office for Mr Kawate. Who knows what lies in store over the next day — or two!

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