Gone are the days when the Indian Davis Cup team kept knocking on the doors of the World Group. Now, the All India Tennis Association is struggling to even get a four-member team in place to challenge Uzbekistan in the Asia-Oceania Group I first round tie in Namang from February 9 to 11.
After the unsavoury incidents at the Doha Asian Games, Mahesh Bhupathi had decided not to play for India again. Or, at least, as long as Leander Paes is going to be the team’s playing captain.
With Harsh Mankad also deciding against travelling for the tie from the United States, there are hardly any options left. Apart from Leander, there is Rohan Bopanna, and Karan Rastogi making his debut. And with Prakash Amritraj again not fit, there is a crisis about the fourth member of the squad.
As things stand, the AITA may decide to include young Sanam Singh, which would make this the weakest field by India in the last one decade.
Bopanna has Cup appearance, but is he really the man fit enough for 15 sets in three days if the situation demands? The answer is an emphatic no.
Bopanna’s fitness has been suspect in the best of times; and for him to shoulder both singles and doubles responsibility is a huge task. In his 17-year-long association with Davis Cup, Leander has shouldered the load of playing both singles and doubles. As recent as last April, when India faced Pakistan in Mumbai, Leander had to step out and play the fifth rubber to avoid an embarrassing loss.
Now, five months short of turning 34, Leander is no longer the man for singles.
As for Karan Rastogi, the 20-year-old Mumbaikar did not get overawed when he played Rafael Nadal in the second round of the Chennai Open.
But Davis Cup is so much different, playing best of five sets against Uzbekistan on clay will be very demanding.
Certainly, there are more questions than answers available to this crisis.