Forget about the primetime television shows occupying the busiest slot, the newest soap opera these days happens to be brewing in the tennis world with lead cast including famous sportspersons like Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna and the All India Tennis Association (AITA). The biggest problem of the country seems to be revolving around the tennis team selection for the upcoming London Olympics season.
It began with Mahesh Bhupathi accusing Leander Paes of backstabbing in the past along with him expressing a desire to be teamed with Rohan Bopanna for the Olympics. This crisis deepened when Bopanna snubbed AITA’s offer to be paired with Paes in the men’s doubles. Both Bhupathi and Bopanna sent official written statements to AITA and the sports ministry declaring that the two of them had already been practicing as a team and were to be sent as a team if both of them qualify for the Olympics as per an earlier promise made by the AITA.
The majority has been raising questions regarding the players’ sportsman spirit, ego hassles, team spirit and taking one for the country. Some feel that such chaos just a few days before the submission of names of teams shows that these sportsmen are placing their individual interests above that of the country while others feel that instead of any disciplinary action, they must all resolve their differences in the time that they have left. Nothing being wrong with how agitated the general public is feeling towards this issue, I would like to consider the unusual and rocky path to the base of this issue.
I believe the key concern here is to enhance the chances of India winning a medal, based on various permutations and combinations. Yes, the prerogative of team selection lies in the hands of selection bodies; however this cannot be done without suggestions from the players themselves. At the end of the day, it is these players who are going to be playing on the field so their chemistry and team work cannot be ignored. Bhupathi and Bopanna had already been practicing as a team for which they received encouragement from the AITA so hurling them with names and titles they do not deserve is not fair considering their combined world ranking putting them at the seventh position. It only seems reasonable that a team that is comfortable and confident playing together must be sent as one. How can two players who cannot see eye to eye be expected to team up and win medals for the glory of the nation?
It does not seem to me that Bhupathi or Bopanna were trying to defy the federation or the nation; as they were simply trying to give the country a good team that was already under preparation for representation at the Olympics. To revoke the statements against his son, Bhupathi’s father pointed out that the #10 ranking of Paes over the past few days should not be made a great fuss about since Bhupathi’s had been ranked fifth for the past few years. He sacrificed that ranking and more money to partner Bopanna, who sacrificed his flourishing partnership with Pakistani Qureshi to team up with Bhupathi for a chance to play in the Olympics.
In this play of choices and ego clashes, the backhand has been played by Paes who has recently threatened to quit from participation in the event after him being paired with a relatively new player, Vishnu Vardhan, as Bhupathi and Bopanna refused to be paired with him. He wishes to be the first Indian to play in six Olympics and not be paired with a low ranked player of 207. Again, others might call this an act of arrogance; I don’t see why the country’s best player cannot express his desire for someone who would level their game without being accused of defying national interest when ultimately it is this factor which will determine whether or not he returns with a medal.
With the AITA mending their plan of sending one team for the event by sending two teams comprising of Paes and Vishnu as one and Bhupathi and Bopanna as the other, they seem to be sending mixed signals. They claim to have bowed under the threat of the players but if they had taken a firm decision for one team, why was this not conveyed to the players? Why was it preserved to be unfolded days before the submission date?
Now what can we call the current situation? Double fault? Better, tennis elbow. A constant pain the nation must endure until the players return with medals and laurels to do our nation proud.