The AITA has decided to field country’s top two doubles players, Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan, as one of the men’s doubles teams at the upcoming Asian Games amidst “concerns” that veteran Leander Paes may not be match-sharp due to his absence from the Tour for the last few months.
AITA had to send combinations to the IOA by June 30 and that’s why it ratified “provisional pairings” at its Executive Committee meeting today after consulting captains of the men’s and the women’s squads.
AITA insists that final combinations will be decided only before the draw by the two captains and names of the selected players had to be mentioned in certain teams to procure accreditation for all of them.
Men’s squad captain Zeeshan Ali chose Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan as one team while Paes and young Sumit Nagal were named as the other team.
In the mixed doubles, Paes and country’s top singles player Ankita Raina will be fielded as a team while Bopanna will be paired with Prarthana Thombare.
Ramkumar Ramanathan and Prajnesh Gunneswaran will play men’s singles.
“Leander has not played since February, so there are concerns how sharp he will be. Based on the rankings, Rohan and Divij are the top two players, so they have been chosen as a team,” Zeeshan told PTI.
Paes last played a competitive match in China, where he became the most successful doubles player in the history of Davis Cup. After that he has not played any match on the Tour, missing French Open and is now set to miss Wimbledon too, due to personal reasons.
Asked if it was a factor in making the choice that Bopanna and Sharan wanted to play together, Zeeshan said,”players can express their opinion and preferences and we appreciate that but the final decision rests with the captain and the selection committee.”
“The combinations can change before the draw,” said Zeeshan.
Meanwhile, AITA Secretary General Hironmoy Chatterjee said that neither Bopanna nor Sharan communicated in writing to AITA that they don’t want to play with Paes.
“Actually, the ministry wanted that the players who are going to play together as a team at the Asian Games, should try to play one or two tournaments together before leaving for Indonesia, so the players must have discussed amongst themselves and spoken to the Captain verbally about this. But no one has given anything in writing to AITA,” Chatterjee insisted.
“We had to send names to IOA, so we have selected the teams. These are provisional teams but captain can make changes before the draw. The captains have to submit names only at the Captains’ meeting.”
According to information, Ankita Raina will not play women’s doubles and will compete only in women’s singles and mixed doubles.
Prarthana Thombare and Riya Bhatia form the one team for the women’s doubles and Rutuja Bhosale and Pranjala Yadlapalli is the other team.