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Davis Cup: Leander Paes questions Mahesh Bhupathi's style after being left out of squad

For the first time in 27 years, Paes has not made the Davis Cup squad when fit.

The Indian team to face Uzbekistan in the Davis Cup tie in Bangalore

Leander Paes will not feature in the doubles rubber of India’s second round of Asia/Oceania zone group 1 Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan. The tie will be held in Bangalore from April 7th-9th, and the announcement was made this morning by non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi at the press conference following the draw for the tie.

Rohan Bopanna will be partnered by Sriram Balaji in the doubles match. Bhupathi said the decision was taken because Paes had arrived in Bangalore only on Wednesday, whereas Bopanna had been practising with Balaji from Sunday.

The 42-year-old said, “In doubles, co-ordination is very important, and you only get that by playing a lot with the other player. Rohan and Bala have played a lot of sets since Sunday, and that has been the only factor that has influenced by decision.”

Bhupathi, however, refused to shut the door on a possible return for Paes. He said, “I have a squad of six to eight players, and Leander is an invaluable member, with his experience and his energy.”

Paes, however, was having none of it. He questioned the method in Bhupathi’s selection of the side and his management of the players. The veteran 43-year-old made his Davis Cup debut in 1990, and this is the first time in his 27 year career that he has been dropped from the team despite being fit to play. Also, Paes is only one doubles win away from becoming the player with the most Davis Cup doubles wins.

He said, “I am only a phone call away, if you wanted to tell me that I was not going to play. A captain can have his style, but criteria for selection should be transparent. If it was form, I just won an event.”

Bhupathi had previously stressed on this being his team and that he would impose his style on them. The latest chapter in the Bhupathi-Paes saga could affect the team, as it also consists of two youngsters in Prajnesh Guneshwaran and Sriram Balaji, who will be making their Davis Cup debuts.

Paes, though, extended his full support to the team: “The team is more important than me. The country even bigger. My full support to the team.”

The tie will kick off with Ramkumar Ramanathan taking on Temur Ismailov, before Guneshwaran faces Sanjar Fayziev. The Uzbeks are handicapped by the absence of their number one player, world no. 70, Denis Istomin who has pulled out with a heel injury.

Bhupathi was upbeat about the team’s chances. He said. “Losing Yuki (Bhambri) is a big blow for us. But I think, for them, losing Istomin is a bigger blow, because we have got the depth to cover or Yuki’s absence.”

The captain concluded by saying that he considered his side favourites to win the tie. 

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