Calcutta/New Delhi: Mahesh Bhupathi’s decision not to play for India any more has taken aback Leander Paes.
“The decision comes as a surprise as I have not been informed directly by him. In fact, Mahesh had confirmed to me that we would be playing the Asian Games in December, the Davis Cup and the Olympics in 2008,” the Indian Davis Cup captain said in a statement e-mailed from Mumbai.
“Mahesh’s decision not to play for India is unfortunate and the loss will be felt by the entire team,” Paes stated, adding: “I believe the Mumbai Open, a prelude to the Asian Games, would have been valuable match practice. However, Mahesh had prior commitments and chose not to play with me, which I do respect.”
Paes further stated: “The only discussion between us has been about playing the Tour in 2007. It would be unprofessional at this stage, having spent an entire year nurturing my partnership with Martin (Damm) which is beginning to yield results, to now change partners. Having been in the final of the Australian Open, semis of Wimbledon, and won the US Open helped Martin and myself qualify for the Masters Cup in Shanghai. Mahesh understands the game and, as he has said, respects that.”
Paes had a comforting word for his one-time partner. “As Davis Cup captain, let me say that Mahesh always has a place in the team, and as previously agreed upon, I hope we do play the Asian Games, Davis Cup and 2008 Olympics for India together.”
Bhupathi had told The Telegraph two days ago that he was contemplating quitting national duties with immediate effect. He has since then confirmed he would, indeed, not be available to play for India.
“I have not sent an official communication yet, but had a one-on-one chat with Anil Khanna (AITA secretary) when he was in Mumbai. I think they respect my decision,” he said, adding that it wasn’t a sudden move but one which he had “been contemplating for a while.”
Khanna, though, believes Bhupathi will play in Doha Asian Games as well as in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
“We will persuade him to change his decision, I have no doubt he will play in Doha and Beijing,” Khanna said.
“I am confident that Leander and Mahesh will win the gold not only in the Asian Games but also in the Olympics. The Doha gold is reserved for them.”
The Indian squad has already been named but Khanna said there was no need to think of a replacement.