Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupath
Kolkata: Former Davis cup captain Naresh Kumar on Thursday hoped Indian tennis superstars Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi can set their differences aside and make their chemistry work when Uzbekistan comes calling for the second round of the Asia/Oceania Group 1 Davis Cup tie, beginning on April 7.
Besides the star-duo, the six-member squad also includes singles specialists Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan, along with youngsters N. Sriram Balaji and Prajnesh Gunneswaran. It will be further pruned to four, two weeks before the rubber gets off in Bengaluru.
“Of course I welcome the move. They have been fighting, you seen everyone is fighting with everybody (laughs). So if they can get together that will be very much better for us.”
“Two or three years ago all these fights were taking place, we have to get out of that. Let us hope that with Bhupathi’s coming back, there is a reconciliation. Mahabharata is over,” Kumar, 87, told reporters on the sidelines of the ongoing Rendez-Vous A Roland Garros national series tennis tournament at the red clay courts of the Dakshin Kalikata Sansad (DKS) here.
Asked whether he foresees the camaraderie between the pair who have a Davis Cup record of the longest winning streak in doubles, with 23 straight wins, rekindling again in the twilight of their careers, Kumar said if you’re not pals off the court, it is difficult to strike a chord on it.
“I can’t say. That’s a personal thing between them. Whether they are really at peace or not I can’t say. But it’s a very good sign if they are going to come together. ”
“They say that when they get together their chemistry works. You can say what you like. If you’re not friends, to make chemistry on the court is not easy. But maybe they are special.”
Known as the “Indian Express”, Paes and Bhupathi have an enviable 303-103 career record together.
On December 22 last year, Bhupathi, 42, was made the successor of Anand Amritraj as India’s next non-playing Davis Cup captain.
“Look at the knowledge they have. Bhupathi has a beautiful backhand which he can teach. Sania (Mirza) can teach them her forehand. Paes can’t teach anybody because he is specially gifted. He is endowed by a gift which he can show them but may not be able to give,” was Kumar’s take on the veterans being brought back to tutor the youngsters in the Davis Cup.
“We have to have better players. And this new lot that has come in with the tested, the likes of (Saketh) Myneni and others. Whether they are up to the mark or not. It is very difficult for new players as you require to play against top class competition.”
“And for that you need a lot of money to go and spend and then you can move up, and that is missing here. A lot of our players have come from the American system, Somdev Devvarman, before that Jasjit Singh, Shashi Menon, these people supported our Cup. And they were all inter collegiate players from the American college system.”
Asked how long will Paes, 43, continue playing, Kumar said he is stilling winning the crucial points in mixed doubles and that is still his greatest quality.
“It’s a very difficult question. If you watch Leander’s mixed doubles matches, and you watch closely he will win the crucial points. You have to have panache to be still doing that, and confidence. The other boys maybe better players, but on the crucial occasion this fellow is putting his neck forward. So that’s his greatest quality,” he said.