Leander Paes has no reason to “sulk” after being excluded from India’s playing squad since he was conveyed in advance that his place was not confirmed in final four, non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi said on Sunday.
Bhupathi had picked Rohan Bopanna ahead of Paes to play against Uzbekistan and defended his decision. “He deserves the respect after what he’s achieved for the country to be given the option to be in the six. We gave him the option and he readily took it. So after that, to sulk about not being in the four was a bit unprofessional,” Bhupathi said after India won the tie 4-1.
Coming into the tie, Paes had a won a Challenger event in Mexico and joined the Indian team on Wednesday while the rest of the members assembled on Sunday. Bhupathi said when there was space for only one doubles, player, Rohan Bopanna was a better choice.
“Like I said in the press conference on Thursday, I am a big believer that we don’t require a doubles specialist for the Davis Cup team. As of today, Rohan Bopanna is India’s number one doubles player by far,” he said.
Paes was unhappy with his exclusion. He questioned the selection criteria and left for Mumbai midway into the tie, a decision which Bhupathi termed as “shocking”. “I had asked Leander to do fitness test. I mean I am extremely proud of the fact that he won the Challenger. But in the same breath Rohan also competed at highest level, he played against Novak (Djokovic). So, my criteria was not of one or two things, but five, and that included fitness, of course,” Bhupathi said.
“The six-man squad is to build a team. This (Paes walking off the day after his arrival) is one of the many shocking things that has transpired this week,” he said.
Bopanna said the captain has said the same thing to all the players, including him. “I think Mahesh said the same thing what he was saying to Leander and me as well. He said he is not going to pick the team till Wednesday. Until the day before, I did not know I was going to be a part of the team and I was here to practice with the team, irrespective of I am going to be fit or not,” he said.
Bopanna said being part of the team and when two players are making debuts, one needs to stay to make them comfortable and share his international experience with youngsters. “Being part of the Davis Cup team, it is all about supporting and staying there to make comfortable the two debutantes, and also sharing my experience with them. I would like to share it instead of taking back home and keeping it with me,” he said.