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Davis Cup row is not just about Paes-Bhupathi: Anand Amritraj

Last updated on: March 14, 2008 16:53 IST

The Davis Cup revolt by Prakash Amritraj and Rohan Bopanna against captain Leander Paes was a disaster waiting to happen, according to former India player Anand Amritraj.

"It was a ticking time-bomb," Amritraj told, on the sidelines of the WTA Bangalore Open.

While Vijay Amritraj has abstained from making any comment on the controversy, his younger brother minced no words in summoning the situation.

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In fact, Amritraj had spoken of the brewing troubles in the team in September in an interview well before it came out in the open.

"There have been definite problems in the team almost since 2005.

"Even when I was the captain of the team during the Busan Asian Games (2002) the situation was not that great. Leander and Mahesh (Bhupathi) had split up for the second time, though they did go on to win the gold medal in doubles."

Amritraj added that it was wrong to see this issue as Leander Paes versus Mahesh Bhupathi.

"Since the past seven-eight years we know that Leander and Mahesh have problems. But it's not between them now. Earlier there was only one player against Leander now there are three. Rohan and Prakash have also openly opposed him and they have stuck by their stand. It's the team versus Leander now.

"I know both these boys well. They live to play the Davis Cup ties and that's why whatever has happened has upset them so much."

Without saying it in as many words, Amritraj suggested that Paes should step down as the skipper and India should have a non-playing captain.

"As Jaideep Mukerjea has said, his No.1 player (Paes) was unhappy with his captaincy in 1999. There was only one player opposing him and still he resigned. It was the honourable thing to do. If you don't have the respect of your team I don't see how you are going to make it.

"A non-playing captain is the way out. A person who knows and has the respect of all the three guys, including Leander, should essentially be first choice.

"You need to have camaraderie in the team; after all it's not a cricket team with some 20 players. There are only four-five guys and they need to get along well. You need to have a happy team to have a successful team.

"Vijay was the last playing captain we had in the 1980's. He did everything: play singles and doubles, did the press. But there is no one quite like him.

"As a playing captain more than too much authority there is too much responsibility. There are too many things to do apart from playing your matches. You have to do everything from getting the balls to getting you players ready."

Though Amritraj has backed the talent of Bopanna and Prakash, he agrees that they have taken a long time coming and should've been at least in the top-150 by now than their current rankings of 294 and 269, respectively, suggest.

"India needs a singles player in he top-100 or top-50 to get back to the world group. Rohan and Prakash have to step up and take that responsibility now. They are not very young anymore, but you never know some players mature late.

"Both of them had a very good year last year. Prakash won three back-to-back futures events in India and Rohan won the Challenger in Dublin, he's also had a phenomenal year in the doubles. They have to build on that one good year to progress further. As far as their games are concerned, they both have the ability to break into the top-150 and move ahead from there. Unfortunately, they've both been injured a lot.

"Apart from that we have a good younger lot. Somdev (Dev Varman) has come along well, he's a grinder; he'll do very well on clay and slow hard-courts though I'm not sure how good he is on grass. Karan Rastogi is there, we have the new grass court champion Vishnu Vardhan and Vivek Shokeen. But nobody has stepped up till now.

"In tennis, the two things that matter are feet and head. They have to get that right."

India might well have to start looking at these options if the revolting players as well as the AITA, which has strongly backed Paes, stick to its guns.

The team has a tough task ahead as they will have to put the troubles behind and take on Japan in the Group I Asia Oceania Davis Cup tie in New Delhi, starting on April 11. The winner of the tie will advance to the World Group play-offs.

Deepti Patwardhan in Bangalore