New Delhi, Feb 2 — Taking a dig at the rebel tennis players including his estranged partner Mahesh Bhupathi, Leander Paes Saturday said that it was not the priority of the players to get into governance and selection matters.
Paes said he never interfered in selection matters but when pointed out that before the London Games he had made choices who to play with, the veteran clarified that he was specifically asked who he would “like to play with”.
“I was asked a specific question of ‘who I would like to play with’. I just gave my opinion. If somebody asks me even today I would do that. The team I preferred wasn’t even chosen. I have always played for my country and have played with whosoever has been put beside me on the court. I don’t think it is the priority of the players to get into the governance and selection,” said Paes after winning the Davis Cup doubles rubber with debutant Purav Raja against South Korea.
Paes added that he respected the young players in the Davis Cup team as they could have also been tempted to join the rebels and stayed away from national duty, which they didn’t.
“For me, these boys are already winners. Considering whatever is going on right now, it would have been very easy for them to get drawn into all this. Some of these players could also have been tempted to join them (rebels). But they kept the country ahead of themselves and came out to play. I respect that,” said Paes.
Paes also lauded the All India Tennis Association (AITA) for selecting a six-member squad, including two reserves, so that the young players get more exposure.
“It was important to nurture the next set of players and the reserves and for this we got to compliment AITA. I understand that when we go abroad then we go with a smaller team to lower the expenses but while playing at home AITA always makes it a point to bring a bigger team for the guys to get experience,” he said.
The 39-year-old added that the five newcomers in the team will be richer with experience when they next play for India.
“My job is to motivate the boys. These boys will be very different the next time they play for the country. They have lacked opportunity to play at this level and you got to nurture them and next time they will be much richer in experience,” he said.
The AITA was forced to select a depleted team for the Davis Cup after top 11 players, led by Somdev Devvarman, made themselves unavailable for national duty over a charter of demands.