Serve & Volley
The joy of Indias success in cricket, chess, shooting and boxing in 2008 has been swept aside by the searing pain of the traumatic Mumbai killings. At the same time, the struggle to free ourselves from the half-nelson hold of the financial meltdown continues.
Hopefully, 2009 will see a strike back on terror, a return to prosperity and more sporting success. Tennis wise, it was a sad 2008, with the passing away of Premjit Lall on December 31, and the continuing imbroglio in the Davis Cup team.
Premjit was one of my favourite players. Tall and handsome, with the looks of a matinee idol, he had a beautiful classical style of yesteryears. Like him, his game was straight forward, bereft of the ugly spins of modern times.
At his peak, he could match the best in the world. His great matches against Laver and Borg at Wimbledon come to mind. Such was Premjits charisma that a Bobby was deputed by the Wimbledon authorities to protect him from the screaming mob of teeny boppers chasing him for his autograph.
Unlike Borg, Agassi, or McEnroe with their unruly hair in colourful head bands, Premjit was a clean cut reluctant hero. Life dealt him a very cruel hand. With his straightforward ways, he could not handle the spins and the bad calls he faced in his life.
He was shattered by his two failed marriages. Being confined to a wheelchair for the last 18 years, unable to walk, or speak, or write with no hope of recovery was a cruel tragedy. Its far worse than solitary confinement in a prison cell. All of us wept for him, but for Premjit, it was a blessing in disguise to be back at peace with the Lord.
For the rebels who were in full sail having hijacked the Indian Davis Cup ship, the governments announcement of not allowing foreign passport holders to play for India was a crippling broadside. Prakashs absence will be a big blow for the Davis Cup team, even with the recent induction of the promising Somdev Dev Varman.
It is very sad for Prakash Amritraj, Shikha Oberoi and Sunitha Rao, who have been enjoying the privilege of playing for India in spite of having US passports for some years now. One can understand their disappointment. They have kept the Indian flag flying in international competitions. However, their absence will give the much-needed international exposure to the lower-ranked indigenous talent available.
Technically, the government policy is absolutely right. The dictionary says: The passport is an official document issued by a government certifying the holders identity and citizenship and entitling them to travel abroad under its protection.
Furthermore, the Davis Cup rules for Eligibility of Players states: Any tennis player who is in good standing with his National Association in accordance with Appendix D shall be qualified to represent that country if he is a national of that country, has a current valid passport of that country, has lived in that country for 24 consecutive months at some time and has not represented any other country during the period of 36 months immediately preceding the event.
The eligibility rules of the Federation Cup for women are exactly the same.
In our eagerness to put up a good show, no one seems to have examined the rules carefully.