The latest communication from Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna is quite categorical about the fact that they are not willing to be considered as individual players when it comes to selection for the Olympics.
“We are available to represent India as a doubles team,” is how the duo have responded to the national federation's demand to clarify on whether “each one of you would be available to play for the country in partnership with any player unconditionally as may be decided by the selection committee”.
In a June 10 mail from Rohan Bopanna to All India Tennis Association secretary, Anil Khanna, the duo had asserted that: “Both of us are considered for selection as a doubles team only and not as individual players to be paired with any other players who might be eligible for men's doubles.” The finality of the latest mail raises the stakes to an altogether different level.
Bhupathi and Bopanna are firm that they will not back off from this stance. If that stays the case, then the selectors have no choice. The option of pairing Leander Paes with either one of them does not exist.
Paired for Olympics
From the selection committee's viewpoint, that would appear to be a confrontational stand. It becomes understandable only when examined from the point of view that this is a pair that came together early in the year with the explicit understanding that they would build up to a strong challenge at the Olympics. After all, Bopanna broke off an extremely successful partnership with Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi to pair up with Bhupathi and even went to the extent of shifting from a left court to a right court player.
The first communication goes on to detail how the duo, with a team ranking of seven, is the best Indian team right now.
The latest mail also points out a crucial drawback as far as the selectors are concerned: “There seems to be a significant lack of awareness of the criteria relating to Olympics qualifying for both doubles and mixed doubles”. Your correspondent has encountered the same. In a strange twist, one has to actually explain to the selectors just how the qualification process works and is then met by exclamations ranging from “Really!” to “Oh! That's strange!” It's all very strange, indeed.