A tweet by Sports Minister Ajay Maken yesterday morning on sending two Tennis teams to Olympics seemed like an attempt to pour water on fire. Only, it ended up working like oil.
AITA picked Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes to play for the London Olympics (to be held in July), assuming they would be a team. However, Bhupathi has reiterated his position of not wanting to play with Paes. AITA then reached out to Rohan Bopanna, who later today refused to partner Paes on grounds that he and Paes had not practiced adequately to face the Olympic challenge. Just before 6 pm today Bhupathi challenged AITA’s stand.
Why is AITA keen on making a match that defies all odds of logic?
Unlike cricket, tennis is an individual sport – funded individually, trained privately with little or no government support. Players prefer playing singles. It is an effort for them to modify their style to find a partner for doubles. Given this challenge, shouldn’t AITA have made their intentions clear much earlier on who could be potential partners for the Olympics? That way, at least the players would have had a realistic chance of practice. If not, they could have opted out at the earliest, giving opportunity to the next generation of players.
It is surprising that the media has so far chosen to report these developments as is, without probing both parties for a meaningful reportage of the situation. What is AITA’s selection criterion for insisting that only Bhupathi and Paes play a pair and not any other combination of players? Just that Paes is India’s top ranked player and has the most wins to his credit? Paes won an Olympic medal in 1996. Does he have a realistic chance to win after 16 years, no matter who is he paired with? Why should players be penalized for stating their preferences, when AITA clearly fails to extend them this basic courtesy? Is it fair to blame players as “being selfish and not playing for the country” when AITA itself is being selfish in its desire for a medal without consideration for player’s interests?
If any of these questions were asked, one would not be reading “developments” every half an hour on “the situation” as if it was some national disaster coverage.