You will hear this a lot on Davis Cup weekends. Underdogs (and top dogs wanting to sound humble), insist that “ranking doesn’t really matter” in this competition. But not on Thursday, and not in Bangalore.
None of the members of the Indian team on the dais, not even the youngest member — Yuki Bhambri, who is the only one supposed to face some sort of stiff competition against Indonesia’s No 1 Christopher Rungkat, was ready to give the opposition a chance.
“We should be 2-0 at the end of the day,” said Bhambri.
We didn’t hear any proclamations of a stunning upset from the rival camp either.
As good as it is to see that the Indian squad, almost full-strength, is brimming with self-confidence, it seems a bit unnecessary that they have cornered themselves into having to play the Asia-Oceania relegation play-off.
Only a couple of years ago, most of these players were crossing racquets with some of the mightiest tennis nations in the world, with Somdev Devvarman leading the way.But somewhere along the way they lost the plot. Had the players, and administrators alike, not been obstinate about their positions at the beginning of the year, India could perhaps have had a chance to move onto bigger things.
As of now, they will have to play Indonesia just to secure their place in the Asia-Oceania Group I.
The tie may only be ideal in a way that India would not have found many more forgiving teams in the Davis Cup draw to iron out those prickly issues that have haunted them for the past three months.
Devvarman will play the opening act, as he faces the visitors’ No 2 player Wisnu Adi Nugroho on Friday. The top Indian player has never come across Nugroho, ranked 1774, on the tour.
Meanwhile, Bhambri faces a tricky contest against Rungkat in the other match of the day. Though the Indian has a 2-0 win-loss record over his opponent, both those matches went down to the wire.
The last time the two teams met in Jakarta on clay in 1992, India blanked Indonesia 5-0. And the present squad looks primed for another big win.
But rarely has an Indian team entered a tennis battle with so little to gain. There is hardly any glory in beating a team you are expected to thump.