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Key players missing, India look to build team for future

Things continue to be in turmoil in Indian tennis. India's number one player Somdev Devvarman is not fully match fit and has asked the federation to excuse him from the September 14-16 Davis Cup encounter against New Zealand at Chandigarh. Sukhwant Basra reports. In a nutshell

sports Updated: Aug 18, 2012 02:30 IST
Sukhwant Basra

Things continue to be in turmoil in Indian tennis. India's number one player Somdev Devvarman is not fully match fit and has asked the federation to excuse him from the September 14-16 Davis Cup encounter against New Zealand at Chandigarh.

He has written to the federation saying that he is not satisfied with his own performance after coming back from injury and would not like to be considered for selection.

Then, doubles veteran Leander Paes has conveyed his unavailability for selection as he would rather focus on playing his World Team Tennis finals for his club Washington Kastles.

The WTT is an entertaining format with shorter matches. Paes continues to be in an emotionally disturbed state of mind after he was denied the chance to partner Rohan Bopanna at the Olympics.

In hindsight, Paes was correct in his assessment as Mahesh Bhupathi was not in great shape. While Paes was the dominant player in the Paes-Vishnu Vardhan combo, Bopanna was by far the superior player in the other twosome.

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Bold move
In what has to be a bold move, it has been learnt, that Bhupathi and Bopanna may still not make the cut for the team as the national body has finally decided to build a team for the future. While the two are available for selection, the federation wants to send out a strong signal that holding it to ransom is not good for the long-term prospects of anyone who wants to continue representing the country.

Late night discussions between the members of the All India Tennis Association executive committee members hinted that both would not be considered for the September tie.

Given the way it has swayed to changing winds at the nth moment in the past, the federation my yet baulk at growing a backbone but late night considerations suggested that young players Yuki Bhambri, Vishnu Vardhan and Sanam Singh will form the core of the team.

While their showing at the Olympics had made the Paes-Vardhan pair a shoo-in for the squad, Paes' other commitments have thrown the door open for experimenting with a younger pair that can shoulder India's cup aspirations far into the future.

The fact that New Zealand is not such a great challenge has also allowed the body to try out these changes. It is believed that home advantage and solid recent results by the likes of Bhambri and Vardhan allow India to take the calculated gamble of moving on from the veterans and their king-size egos.

The ball was set rolling by Davis cup committee chairman Karti Chidambaram in a mail earlier this month wherein he even suggested that former Chandigarh tennis body's trainee Vijayant Malik should also be included as a reserve player.

However, it has been learnt, that the crucial issue of the Davis cup captaincy is still being kept on the back burner. While present incumbent SP Misra is a thorough gentleman, players have complained that perhaps the job should go to a younger man. A number of names have been thrown up including that of present coach Nandan Bal and former player Rohit Rajpal.

The federation has made up its mind as to who deserves to be the next captain and will announce the change beginning next season.