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Bhupathi Takes Aim At Paes

Mahesh Bhupathi, nonplaying captain of the Indian Davis Cup team, waded into Leander Paes’ claims of ‘personal bias’ and ‘questionable selection criteria’, by laying out ‘facts’ -a WhatsApp exchange between the former partners which showed that Bhupathi had previously consulted the Kolkatan on his availability. Bhupathi was speaking at the post-match PC after India had beaten Uzbekistan 4-1on Sundya.

Paes, who also dissed the youngsters in the side, questioning their form and Prajnesh Gunneswaran’s ability, did not practice with the team following the announcement at the draw ceremony (on Thursday) that he won’t be playing in the tie.

Bhupathi said Paes’ rant was ‘pretty unfortunate’, given that it happened on the eve of the tie. “We decided as a team to not read anything in the media,” he said. “I know it’s difficult with all the social media and every platform carrying this article. But they kept their heads down, kept their focus and got the win.”

The Mumbai-based multiple Grand Slam (doubles and mixed-doubles) winner, clearly disturbed by the events of Thursday afternoon, said he would mention Paes’ conduct in the captain’s report which he’ll submit to the All India Tennis Association. “We are all being as disciplined as possible and working as hard as possible, putting our best foot forward. Hopefully this episode will never happen again as long as I’m captain,” he said. Bhupathi took pains on Sunday to state his case. “There were five things in my selection criteria,” Bhupathi said. “Obviously, fitness was one. Leander was the only one out of these players, who did not do the fitness test at the place I asked him to. So I don’t think he should be the one boasting about criteria. He’s extremely proud of the fact that he won that Challenger in Leon. Rohan (Bopanna) played Novak Djokovic and Nick Kyrgios (in Indian Wells and Miami) so it’s not a debate I want to get into. My criteria is not one or two things, it’s five and none of them were met (by Leander).”

The Bhupathi-Paes saga, dipped as it is in a deep-rooted rivalry that dates back to almost two decades, making for one of the ugliest chapters in Indian sport, is impossible to timeli ne with its twists and turns. But if you were to take a step back, blank out the personalities involved, who they are and their history and zero in on the weekend, what you get is: a heavyweight player taking on his captain, charging him with personal bias, questioning the worth of his teammates and then abandon the ship. All of this on the eve of a crucial tie.

In response to the speculation in the media on account of the leaked WhatsApp conversation between Mahesh Bhupathi and me, I have the following assertions: 1. The main criteria for selection was form. That’s clearly mentioned in the exchange. This was not followed when it came to final selection.

(Courtesy Times of India)

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