| Leander Paes and Purav Raja. A Telegraph picture |
New Delhi: Doubles star Leander Paes on Wednesday came out strongly on the latest controversy between a section of the players and All India Tennis Association (AITA) saying the game and the nation are bigger than everything else is.
For the past one month, Leander maintained a stony silence when players and the national body were involved in a bitter battle over a charter of demands placed by the senior players. He refused to utter a word except that he was always available to play for India.
However, it was a different Leander on Wednesday. Though careful enough not to blame anyone for the current mess that forced India to field a rather weak squad against South Korea, the veteran Davis Cupper said no one should try to act bigger than the game.
“I personally don’t believe that rebellion is important. But communication should always be open. There is one point which all of us are missing – game is bigger than all of us, it will always be. End of the day, sport is most important. Whether it’s the Association, or players or you guys (media), essence should not be lost,” Leander said.
Leander said he even had a long discussion with Somdev Dev Varman during the Australian Open. “I can’t make public what we discussed…I chatted with him about what is good for his own career.
“I spoke to a couple of other young players also. We are for the flag and the game of tennis. An opportunity to do well for the nation should not take a backseat,” he said.
In his 24 years of Davis Cup career, Leander said he had missed only three Davis Cup ties. “Recently against New Zealand in Chandigarh, I did not play as I had a prior agreement, which, I thought, was my duty to fulfil. Twice before this, I missed Davis Cup because of injury.
“Never in my career, had I questioned the decision of the selection committee. So many times in the recent past, my partner was switched. I accepted it, as I had no choice. I have to play for the flag and the people,” said Leander, who will partner Purav Raja in the doubles against South Korea.
The news, however, is that AITA and the rebel players are likely to reach an agreement soon, and a stronger side should be fielded in the next tie. For SP Mishra, it is definitely the last tie as the non-playing captain though his replacement is yet to be named.
The tie at the weekend against South Korea, Leander agreed, would be tough. “The Koreans are always a fighting lot,” he said.
Meanwhile, 22-year-old Vijayant Malik is hoping would open a new avenue in his career. A product of Chandigarh Lawn Tennis Association's (CLTA) hunt to find talented players in rural areas, Malik is aware that the Davis Cup tie, starting Friday, could change the course of his career.
“I am excited by the prospect of playing the Davis Cup," said Malik, whose father is a government servant. "I am hundred per cent fit and would give my best. There could be some better players but I want to do well for the team," added Malik, currently based in Delhi. He is placed 541 in the ATP singles rankings.