The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bengal tennis gets a raw deal: Jaidip

Calcutta: The choice of sportspersons and coaches for this year’s Arjuna and Dronacharya awards has, as usual, led to a chorus of protest across the country. The state is not far behind in expressing dismay.

Particularly peeved is the city’s tennis fraternity. Former Davis Cup captain Jaidip Mukerjea made no effort to hide his disappointment at seeing Sandip Kirtane being honoured with the Arjuna.

“I have nothing against him (Kirtane), but tell me what has he done to deserve the Arjuna' Especially when Zeeshan Ali hasn’t got it'” Jaidip commented.

“I must say Bengal has been getting a raw deal for quite some time, especially in tennis. Leander (Paes) was the last one to be given that honour. Whereas players from Maharashtra are being awarded the Arjuna time and time again. Asif Ismail, Gaurav Natekar and now Kirtane.”

Kirtane, the elder of two tennis-playing cousins from Pune, has credentials far inferior to Akhtar Ali’s son. There is a national hardcourt title in Kirtane’s CV, but he hasn’t won the big one — the grasscourt national crown. He was part of the Davis Cup squad for a year but never got to play a match.

Zeeshan, on the other hand, is a five-time national grasscourt champion. And, he was a regular member of the Indian Davis Cup team from 1988 to 1995.

Dronacharya choice

The logic of deciding the Dronacharya also beats Jaidip. “I read in the papers that Michael Ferreira has been chosen as Dronacharya. He was a world champion and a great billiards player, but is he a great coach yet' Again, if you consider the fact that someone like Akhtar Ali hasn’t got the Dronacharya yet, how can they give it to Ferreira'”

Jaidip suggested that the state association should take the initiative in pushing the cases of deserving candidates. Bengal Tennis Association (BTA) secretary Manik Goswami has a ready answer.

“Even this year I had brought up Zeeshan’s name at the executive committee meeting but I was told that his case had been forwarded more than once before only to be rejected,” said Goswami.

“Same is the case with Akhtar,” Goswami added. “The AITA recommended his name twice but the government hasn’t honoured him with the Arjuna .”

With Prakash Padukone now at the helm of the committee that selects these awards, one can only hope a ‘fair’ system evolves sooner than later.

Otherwise, there will be more such outbursts and the reputation of India’s first All England badminton champion will be at stake.

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