After a two-hour marathon session between the sports ministry and All India Tennis Association (AITA) on Tuesday, to discuss controversial issue of the men’s doubles team for the London Games, its advantage AITA.
The ministry has put the ball back into the tennis body’s court saying, selecting the team isn’t the government’s prerogative but the federation’s. And that they have to put the best foot forward. The AITA, however, stuck to their guns, saying Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi were the best-possible team.
“If Bhupathi backs out, Rohan Bopanna will pair Paes,” said Anil Khanna, president of AITA, seemingly overlooking the fact that Bopanna has already refused the proposal.The AITA did try to leave the burden of the decision on the ministry’s shoulders by giving them a five-point contingency plan.
“We need to send the best-possible, medal-winning team to London,” said Khanna. “We don’t want to send two teams just to add to the numbers.”
One of the five options they proposed, however, states that Paes would partner either Yuki Bhambri or Vishnu Vardhan, both of whom have limited experience on the big stage, while Bhupathi and Bopanna enter as a team.
The Indian tennis chief also believes that Paes, at number seven, is the highest-ranked Indian player on the doubles charts and denying him the best-possible partner would be unfair.
“We have to keep in mind the sentiments of Paes when picking a team for London,” said Khanna.
The meeting took place after the ministry was at loggerheads with the tennis federation, demanding an explanation, on Monday, why they were adamant on sending one team to the Games when the option of sending two was available.
But sports minister Ajay Maken and his men seem to have backed down, letting the AITA define the course of the controversy after being pressed for a decision, which, let's face it, could either way come back to bite them. The last date for submitting the final entries to the International Tennis Federation is June 21.
On the face of it, having three doubles players in the top-15 in the world would spell an embarrassment of riches for the country, but all the parties involved seem to have made sure it has only become an embarrassment for the country.