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Who triggered the Lee-Hesh clash?
N D Prashant in Doha | December 14, 2006 15:54 IST
On Wednesday, a major controversy appeared out of thin air soon after Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes played gallantly to win the men's doubles gold medal for India.
Indian channels do not have full access to match venues, severely restricting their coverage of the Asian Games and have to rely on players' interviews that are usually filmed outside the venues.
Bhupathi, who should have confirmed this with Paes, launched a blistering attack on the senior pro, which was picked up by most television channels in India, triggering off a massive furore, especially since the Grand Slam legends had just recently put aside their differences in their quest for a gold medal in Doha.
"This was an opportunity to play for my country. He questioned my commitment and loyalty to my country and even my fitness. He flatly said he doesn't want to play with me. I have been hearing this since the past 12 years. I am hurt," a visibly upset Bhupathi told reporters even as his partner was engrossed in a late evening mixed doubles duel partnering Sania Mirza.
Bhupathi added that he had proved himself by winning the gold medal.
"My relationship with Paes is over. I am not going to beg. It was a soap opera. At a time when we were supposed to celebrate, he came up with such a quote," said Bhupathi, adding, "I am happy to leave from here with gold."
But when newspaper reporters asked Paes to comment on whether he had said anything about not playing with Bhupathi again, and that too after the thrilling mixed doubles final, which he and Sania won, this was what he had to say: "I would love to play with Mahesh, he is a great asset and pillar of the team."
"What more can I say? He is the foundation and he's always welcome. Let's not get carried away by what happened earlier this year," Paes said. "We have shown that if we combine we are still the best."
Doha Asian Games 2006: The Complete Coverage