New Delhi: The uncertain conditions in Pakistan have not deterred Indian tennis coach Birbal Wadhera - he is eager to travel across the border to train the budding youngsters and contribute in his own small way to improve relations between the two countries.
Wadhera, who runs a coaching academy in Chandigarh, was invited by the Pakistan Tennis Federation to train their their top junior players in the 12-18 age group.
"Pakistan Tennis Federation treasurer Arif Qureshi asked me in March if I would be available for the assignment. We agreed upon a three-week stint, starting May 5. I sent my passport and I have now received the NOC from their internal and sports ministries," Wadhera, 33, told IANS.
"The May 5-June 8 camp will have all top Pakistani juniors. I feel the Pakistani players are as talented as the Indians," said Wadhera, who was a coach at the National Tennis Academy in Gurgaon when India's No.1 Somdev Devvarman was a trainee there.
The assignment did create some heartburn among the local Pakistani coaches but Wadhera, who is leaving here for Islamabad Wednesday, is confident of mollifying them.
"Couple of coaches were a bit unhappy. But now I think everything is ok," he said.
The reaction at Wadhera's home was one of concern in view of the prevailing conditions, more so in the wake of Al Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden's killing Monday.
"When I told them that I am going to Pakistan on a 40-day visit, the reaction of people at home was 'are you sure you want to go there?' But I am keen on going and I am not apprehensive about my security. I know my safety will be taken care of. I don't think it is going to be difficult. I am going there to do my work and I want to do it to the best of my ability," said Wadhera.
"Even Osama's killing didn't affect my decision. I spoke to the PTF and they told me to stick to my schedule."
"If through my work I could contribute in my own small way to further the ties between India and Pakistan, I will be most happy. I strongly believe sports and politics should not be mixed."
It is not the first time that tennis is taking Wadhera to Pakistan. In 2003, he took the Indian juniors to Pakistan and in 2004 he was invited by them to work with their youngsters.
His current assignment involves him to work with top Pakistan juniors for the first 21 days primarily in Islamabad and, if needed, in Lahore. Wadhera is particularly happy that some top female players of Pakistan will also be part of the camp.
"During my previous visits, I could hardly find any female tennis player. This time I am told that there will be five of them. It is a good news for Pakistani tennis."
"I am going to stay for the first 2-3 weeks in Islamabad and then I may go to Lahore. There are also plans to promote the sport in other Pakistani states," he said.
Wadhera, who has been a personal coach of Davis Cupper Divij Sharan and also worked with Delhi player Vivek Shokeen, said his stress would be on the physical conditioning of players.
"I will be conducting a lot of conditioning tests before I start the camp so that I am aware of the level of the players' fitness. Physical conditioning will be at the top of the list of priorities. The Pakistani players don't get to travel much and I would like to use all my exposure and experience to help them raise their game," he said.