OPEN LETTER TO LEANDER PAES & MAHESH BHUPATHI
As a young Indian, my first understanding of tennis came in 1999, thanks to the both of you. You’ll taught me what tennis is and today it is my second favorite sport in the world. I was so proud to read all the glorious exploits of ‘Indian Express’ in the newspapers. I used to collect paper clippings of your victories. All the Grand Slams, all the ATP events, all the
Davis Cups. Needless to say, you’ll were my idols and I loved watching you’ll play together.
Then the split happened. I was really upset initially but with time and victories with other I accepted that Lee-Hesh will not play together again, unless it’s for the India. Of course no one really knows the exact reason of the fall-out, and it really doesn’t matter because you’ll came back together later; and always played for India. You would always come together as one to play under the national flag. At the Asian games, at the Commonwealth games, in the Davis Cup; everybody kind of expected you to play together, as we saw in 2008 before the Beijing Games.
Now its 2012. Years have passed and a lot of water has flown under the bridge. Rohan Bopanna, Somdev Devarman, Karan Rastogi, Prakash Amritraj… a number of Indian players have come, some have gone and you’ll have tried with various partners with moderate success. But everybody knows that the success that Lee-Hesh had cannot be replicated with a Mirny, a Zimonic, a Knowles, a Stepanek, a Dlouhy. That is because you are the best Men’s Double pair for India, ever. And that is why we expected you to play together at the 2012 London Olympics as well. Till the issue snowballed last week. And I say snowballed, because it may have been blown out of proportion by the media. This is the Olympics! Possibly the last Olympics that both of you’ll will play. And yet you’ll don’t want to play with each other. Aren’t you the same guys who had tears in their eyes when the national anthem was played after a particularly hard-fought victory? The same players who wrapped the Indian tricolor around their shoulder during the victory laps? You cannot fake those emotions, just look at the photographs. I do not doubt your patriotism or loyalty for a moment, I just wish to remind you about it.
I am trying to understand the issue, or at least I’d like to think I am. I’ve read all the emails to and fro the AITA, the press release from Bhupahi-Bopanna and numerous semi-factual news reports. But I still don’t completely get the reason for this almost-childish-bordering-on-egoistic behavior from India’s two greatest sportsmen. I don’t know who is right or wrong, all I know is one of you have to be the bigger person here. All I know is there cannot be ego when you are representing your country. And I also know I am being too idealistic here, but I always am when it comes to Indian sport.
|Leander Paes after winning the bronze medal |
at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics
All I want is to see the Indian Express in action one last time. Medal or no medal, this is our best chance. Please put everything aside and play as one. Leander, be the bigger person and take the first step. Mahesh, be a better person and let bygones be bygones. As fans, we don’t care who is right or who is wrong. In fact after some time, we may not even remember the issue. All we will remember is seeing you two play your own brand of tennis together. And since India has two slots, Bopanna will get his chance to play with another partner. So please, just this once, play as one.
An Indian fan.