Play as a team, says India's new Davis Cup manager

IANS | By, New Delhi
Mar 30, 2008 05:50 PM IST

The AITA retained Paes as the playing captain for the tie and put off a decision on the letter till the Beijing Olympics.

Manager Shiv Prasad Misra has asked the Indian Davis Cup team players to rise to the occasion and bury their differences in national interest ahead of their crucial tie against Japan here next month.

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"They are all professionals and they will not be swayed by small personal considerations when the goal is to take India into the World Group. They should keep in mind that they are playing for the country. That alone is reason enough to keep their differences aside," said Misra.

The former Davis Cupper was chosen to keep the channel of communication open between skipper Leander Paes and the rest of the team.

The players joined ranks against Paes after the Uzbekistan tie in February and refused to play under him, triggering an unprecedented revolt in India's Davis Cup history.

Misra said he does not believe it is a major problem and the players can sort it out.

"My job will be to create the right atmosphere for harmony in the side. They should feel comfortable staying together, eating together, and roaming together as a family," said Misra.

Whatever may be the differences, Misra has a straightforward message for the team members: "Play as a team and perform to the best of your ability against Japan. All issues can be addressed later."

Misra feels India have a very good chance of winning against Japan on grass from April 11 to 13 and that should take them a step closer to the World Group, something they have not been able to do since 1998.

But it is easier said than done. The essential quality of team unity required to win a Davis Cup encounter went up in smoke when the players led by Mahesh Bhupathi openly refused to accept Paes as captain and dashed off a letter to the All India Tennis Association (AITA), listing a number of grievances against the veteran Davis Cupper.

Bhupathi, Prakash Amritraj and Rohan Bopanna in the letter stated they have lost confidence in Paes' leadership following which the AITA in an emergency executive committee meeting last month appointed Misra as the manager of the side for the Japan tie.

The AITA retained Paes as the playing captain for the tie and put off a decision on the letter till the Beijing Olympics.

"They (players) might have grievances, but I will address the issue once I meet them. However, I feel they are professionals and so they won't let their differences come in the way of the team," said Misra.

A genial Hyderabadi, he is a national selector who is not one to seek publicity or talk out of turn.

Misra, who represented India in Davis Cup in the 1960s, knows the enormity of the task at hand and has already begun his work in his own quiet manner.

"I have been constantly in touch with all the players through the internet as the players are now playing in the US. But, I will get a week to work out things as the players are expected to arrive in the capital April 4 or 5 for the Davis Cup tie," said Misra.

He said he will discuss the issues with the players, individually and as a team, once they arrive for the tie.

There is speculation that Misra's appointment to the post of manager is a prelude to his elevation as the future non-playing captain of the Davis Cup team and he is amused at the spin given to his appointment.

"I do not know about that (non-playing captaincy). Let's see how things go. As of now, I am a selector and a manager for just the Japan tie," he said.

Misra, however, was of the view that tennis has undergone a sea change and is still evolving. "In the good old days, tennis was a pleasurable sport and players fought for the country's honour.

"During our days there was no money in tennis and still we enjoyed playing for the country. Today, it's a major global sport what with the media exposure it is getting," said Misra, who had also played a good grade of cricket.

"Technically too, tennis has changed a lot. In our time, the game was more tactical, unlike the power tennis of today. We used to play a lot of grass court tennis and we hardly played on synthetic courts," he said.

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