When will these boys grow up?
It’s been five whole days since the quadruple-drama began. As tennis fans we all expected a clash of egos (as Indian tennis history has repeated itself umpteen number of times before a mega event) but the drama unfolding currently has probably reached its zenith.
Leander Paes. The man who is on the threshold of becoming the first tennis player to participate in six Olympics, the national hero whose exploits I’ve followed since I can recollect, today threatened to pull out of London if he’s not able to partner Mahesh Bhupathi or Rohan Bopanna. The reason? And I quote ‘it would not be acceptable, if with my ranking as the best Indian tennis player, I give up the best option of partner for winning a medal for my country and am made to play the Olympics with a player ranked 207 / 306 in the world while the No.13 and No. 15 ranked players form another team together based on their refusal to play with me.’
It probably slipped his mind that Ramesh Krishnan took the then-young 19-year-old, ranked in the late-200s, under his wing at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. Yes, things like that are fast forgotten. Of course, there is the small matter of Bhupathi and Bopanna not wanting to team up with him.
Let’s take the case of Hesh and Bops. Pairing at the end of last season with the Olympics in mind, both have emphatically refused to partner Paes. The long letters to the All India Tennis Association and sports ministry bare it all. But in spite of all the letter writing (which does take time, believe me), Mahesh does have a point. When India has the opportunity to field two teams, then why is the AITA insisting on sending only one? But after hours of discussion, when it seemed that the selection committee had bowed to the pig-headedness of Hesh and Bops, Paes’ letter added 10 years on the faces of the sleepless and haggard officials.
We can argue, counter-argue, and bring up statistics (which all four parties in this soap opera have been doing). But at the bottom of all this, the only image left in my mind is of children quarelling. This drama simply reminds me of juvenile behaviour from players who have been the mainstay of Indian tennis for a decade-and-a-half.
Boys (rather men in their late-30s), isn’t it time you stopped? It’s been 13 years since you broke up, breaking the world’s top-ranked partnership and a billion Indian hearts. We’ve witness to all the dirty linen you had to wash in public. What precedent are you setting for the next generation? We don’t want a similar cycle for the next 20 years. When will you grow up? I’m afraid, you may never.
By Sharmistha Chaudhuri