This time the heat is really on
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This time the heat is really on

Denied the calming influence of an experienced pro, young India picks up the baton for Davis Cup tie against New Zealand. Sukhwant Basra reports.

sports Updated: Sep 14, 2012 01:22 IST
Sukhwant Basra
Sukhwant Basra
Hindustan Times
Sukhwant Basra,davis cup,indian davis cup team

The staging arena at Chandigarh is a bowl shaped like a cauldron. This stadium has considerably expanded since the last Davis Cup tie in 1993, and it has become even more of a cauldron. Let me explain.

When the surface here was grass, it absorbed less heat. There were four expansive exits from the inner sanctum which allowed air to circulate through the stadium's innards even when the sun glared its harshest.

Now, the courts are synthetic and they bake under the sun. The absorbed heat radiates from the court and is hemmed in by the oval brick construction that surrounds it.

The earlier exits, you see, no longer exist as extensive construction around the stadium has seen it grow in facilities but not perhaps in the comfort of the athletes in the middle when it glares harsh.

Adding to the stifling atmosphere is the weather in Chandigarh. It's humid with the clouds playing peek-a-boo.

Big test
To complete the pressure cooker analogy, this is a Davis Cup tie with all the load of expectations and the assured jangle of nerves that it implies.

For all four members of the squad, this will be their first test on home ground. You never know just who might blow his whistle. Or, for that matter, blow away the competition.

In trying transitional times like this, a team would do well to have the presence of a senior player who has weathered many a tie. The youngsters could do with a commanding calming presence in the dressing room. That has been denied them on account of two silly reasons.

Firstly, Mahesh Bhupathi has been ignored for he did not want to play with Leander Paes at the London Olympics. Secondly, and far more pertinent, Leander Paes is not available for he is playing something called World Team Tennis in America.

Petty politics
The 'we must discipline' rant of the national tennis association towards Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna stems from petty politics and is not a move weighed on the balance of prudence.

They have failed to talk about Paes in the same vein, for all three behaved like kids, and it is not good precedence to choose your targets amongst players.

Then, it does not reflect well on Paes to stay away from this tie just because of his commitment to some vague league in the US.

Things get further complicated when taken in the context of the buzz that Paes is likely to be the next Davis Cup captain of India.

The association is doing its best to molly cuddle the sulking player, after all he refused to meet the body's president Anil Khanna for the duration of the Olympics event despite both being at the same venue every day, and the captaincy is a possible peace offering.

However, Paes would have done his cause a world of good if he would have turned up at Chandigarh instead of playing that what's-its-name league.

Missing men
Meanwhile, Bhupathi is back home in India but has to be content watching the tie on television instead of being a mentor on site.

One also wonders just what is up with Somdev Devvarman, who is fit enough to play the Olympics and the US Open but not the Davis Cup at home.

Coming back to the players figuring in this tie, this correspondent believes that not playing the man in form, Sanam Singh, in singles may have been a mistake.

He beat our number one, Yuki Bhambri, just about a week ago.

However, the lightening fast court must have weighed in favour of Vishnu Vardhan's big game.

Bhambri is the one for the future and he needs to be blooded in a home tie so that is a sensible call indeed.

For Bhambri and Vardhan, this is a great platform to assert that they are the next ones to deserve the singles responsibility.

Given that the courts are new and will therefore grab foot that much more, and not to forget the stifling humid cauldron, this battle may also turn into one of attrition where the legs count far more than anything else.

If all goes well, the Kiwis should wilt in the heat.

It may go even better and our new lot may just come out of this tie baked a golden hue - the kind that implies that they are ready for the next bite.

Given they do not bake to crumble point.

First Published: Sep 14, 2012 00:04 IST