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Put national interest first: Maken to tennis players

New Delhi: Sports Minister Ajay Maken today sought to steer clear of the furore surrounding the controversial tennis team selection for the London Olympics but said the feuding players should put national interest first.

"It is not the job of the Ministry, we do not participate in the selection process. Things like these should have been worked out long back," Maken told reporters here when asked about the continuing drama that is still playing out despite the All India Tennis Assoiation`s decision to send two men`s doubles team.

"We can only appeal to the players through media and and we have done that. This is the `Lakshman rekha` and let us not cross that. Let us not disturb the sanctity of this `Lakshman rekha`," he added. Despite a compromise formula — under which Leander Paes has been paired with a much-lower ranked Vishnu Vardhan and Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna have been allowed to team up for the big event — the furore seems far from settled.

Paes is apparently unhappy at being paired with a lower-ranked Vishnu and has threatened to pull out. AITA has sent one of its selectors to London to try and pacify him. Asked if he would also chip in to douse the controversy, Maken said, "I don`t think it is proper for the ministry to cross this Lakshman rekha.

"As per the laid down norms of the IOC, the federation decides if at all any other organisation can come in. The ministry cannot interfere and the ministry never interferes. It will set a bad precedent. I wish them all the best. I appeal to the players that they think about national interest first," he added.

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