Mahesh will be India’s flag-bearer in my absence: Paes

February 6th, 2008 - 9:29 pm ICT by admin  

New Delhi, Feb 6 (IANS) India’s non-playing captain Leander Paes Wednesday said that in his absence the onus is on his estranged partner Mahesh Bhupathi to carry the country’s flag in the crucial Asia-Oceania Group I Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan, starting Friday.

The veteran Davis Cupper also expressed his happiness over the team’s preparation.

I am happy with the preparation. A few obstacles were there, but we seemed to get over them in time. The team is fully fit and raring to go,” Paes told the media on the eve of the draw for the tie here at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA).

Mahesh (Bhupathi) has played exceedingly well at the Australian Open. He is in form and will carry the national flag forward in the upcoming tie,” he added.

He, however, was of the view that the Uzbeks will be tough opponents as they have very good singles players.

Asked about who will feature in the singles, the non-playing captain said: “I have to make a tough decision as to who will play and who will not. Though I am pretty clear in my mind, but I have to consult two more people. Everything will be clear by tomorrow.

Paes said it is always an advantage to go into any Davis Cup tie with three singles and one doubles player.

It’s good that we are going into the tie with three singles and one doubles player because if by chance one gets injured or unfit, the reserve player can take his place,” he said.

However, if I was fit I could have played both the singles and doubles. But I opted out because I know I am not 100 percent fit and as a captain you need to be true to your team. It is a unselfish decision as it is not about an individual, it’s about Team India,” the 35-year-old Indian star added.

Asked whether off-court controversies involving tennis ace Sania Mirza will hamper the team in the upcoming tie, he said: “It has nothing to do with the Davis Cup. We are five of us playing for the country. We are here to do a job.

Bhupathi, who returned to the national team after a year, expressed his happiness to be back in the side.

It’s good to be part of the team. I am looking forward to playing against the Uzbeks,” he said.

The Bangalorean, last year, opted out of an away Davis Cup fixture against the same opponents saying he will never don the national colours again until India qualifies for the World group. However, he had a change of heart and made himself available for the home tie.

Asked the reason behind his sudden change of mind, Bhupathi said: “The reason is known to everyone. Being an Olympic year, I needed to make myself available for selection in the Davis Cup team to play in the Olympics.

In all probability, with Paes out, Rohan Bopanna and India’s best grass court player Prakash Amritraj will feature in the singles, while Bhupathi will team up with Bopanna in the doubles.

In that case, Bopanna, who Paes regards as the spearhead of the team, will have to play on all the three days, but the 27-year-old seemed undeterred by the pressure saying that he is up to the task.

Of late,I have been playing well. Coming with confidence always helps in a tie. I don’t think I will be in any pressure. I will just go there and play my game,” the world ranked 56th doubles player said.

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