Paes and Bhupathi have all along been thought of as an obvious medal prospect in the men’s doubles at the Asian Games. But on Wednesday in Doha, things came to such a pass that Paes, the playing captain, did not want to pair up with Bhupathi in individual doubles as he felt playing with Rohan Bopanna would give India a better chance of winning gold.
It was only minutes before the nominations were to be closed on Wednesday did the Indians submit the names, with Paes reluctant to pair up with Bhupathi. It was at the insistence of Anil Khanna, the AITA secretary, that Paes’s name was submitted along with Bhupathi’s. Paes expressed his displeasure by walking out of the room.
On court, it was supposedely a trial “to judge Bhupathi’s fitness and form.” But with both Paes and Bhupathi having been out of action for some time now, they were rusty. Paes and Bhupathi did have a short chat after the practice where the senior pro told Bhupathi it was perhaps better for him to pair with Bopanna!
A couple of hours passed, and it was only after an extended deadline that the final nomination was made. Khanna said there were no differences in naming the squad. But the fact is that their team was almost not formed.
Doubles is all about chemistry and communication on court. And for a pair like Paes and Bhupathi, experience is a huge factor, which Paes was willing to discount. That Khanna put his foot down means that he showed just who calls the shots.
Ask Bhupathi about what he hopes to achieve with Paes, and he says: “I am looking forward to defending the gold we won in Busan (2002).”
And his own form? "We (Paes and I) are a bit rusty but with practice we will get better," he said.
An early exit means tongues will wag again. And that is not what Indian fans are looking forward to.