New Delhi: The national press, television channels particularly, were building it up as the 'event of the day' that viewers needed to watch out for. Mahesh Bhupathi was supposed to 'reveal it all' at a press meet in Mumbai, days after being made ineligible for national selection till June 2014 by the All India Tennis Association (AITA). Instead, Bhupathi's close to 45 minute press interaction, turned out to be nothing more than a public rant. The 12-time Grand Slam champion, termed the 'ban' as 'personal vendetta' on the part of Mr Anil Khanna, President, AITA. Had this been 'personal vendetta', Bhupathi would've been severely affected much earlier. His dream of representing India at the Olympics, would have remained a dream, had AITA not eventually given in to his stubbornness during the selection saga. India ended up sending two doubles team to London, comprising Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, and Leander Paes and Vishnu Vardhan, with the former pair making a second round exit. Leander Paes, India's highest ranked player at the time and one of India's greatest ever was made a part of a makeshift and inexperienced team, only because of Bhupathi's stubborn ways. This was the unkindest cut of all.
Today's much-hyped press conference, spiralled out of the massive selection drama ahead of the London Olympics. There's no doubt that this could've been better handled by the AITA. The federation made a blunder by giving in to Bhupathi and Bopanna's demands. They should have selected the best team to represent and win a medal for India, even if it was a makeshift experienced team( Leander and Rohan). They should've acted stronger, and taken strict action, right then, instead of waiting till this long. Infact, why could they have not handed out these 'bans' right after the Olympics? No doubt Mahesh has done well for himself and has brought many laurels to the country and Indian tennis will always be thankful to him for the contributions he has made. However, in my opinion, no player, however big he is, can ever be above the nation and national interests. Unfortunately in this case, personal interests sabotaged national interests. The lesson that the AITA needs to learn out of this fiasco is to have a national Code of Conduct in place as soon as possible. They need to introspect, and make sure this mess isn't repeated in the future. And while Bhupathi continues his AITA-bashing, the question to be asked is, should he not take any responsibility at all for the Olympics fiasco? Afterall, he did have his way at the end of it and what did he have to show for it? Bhupathi will retire from competitive tennis next year, but there's no doubt that India will need the services of Rohan Bopanna as a top doubles player in Davis Cup ties against tougher sides. In the process of venting out, has Bhupathi not done damage to his 'friend and partner' Rohan's career? Bopanna should've been more wise about choosing his playing partner and introspect his reasons for not wanting to play with Leander as proposed by the AITA.
A new look Indian side just thrashed New Zealand 5-0 in a home tie, and that's not a bad start at all. These youngsters would do well by dismissing themselves completely from this and any such controversy. This is Indian tennis' time to re-build and players like Sanam, Yuki and Vishnu need all the support and backing from all quarters, to break into the big league. With the return of a fit Somdev, this young team can be developed into a very dangerous side and most definitely an Asian powerhouse.
Coming back to Bhupathi's ranting from earlier in the day, it seemed like he was making an attempt to seem holier than thou, stating how much he does for Indian tennis, with his various training programmes and tournaments that he has organised, simply because of his love for Indian Tennis! Who are we kidding here? That Mahesh Bhupathi is a shrewd businessman, is known to anyone who has followed Indian tennis and he runs a very lucrative business with his academies and events. It is unfair to say that the federation has done nothing like what he has done personally. The federation does get you government grants. And whether you are a Mahesh Bhupathi, Leander Paes, Sania Mirza, or an upcoming junior, you do use those funds. Also, let's give credit to the AITA for organizing the 25 odd ITF world ranking events which benefit all the men, women and juniors of this country who do not have the funds to travel abroad to play in these events, amongst many national events. Can the AITA do more? Of course it can, but to say they do nothing is very harsh and unfair. The AITA also must constantly introspect on how they can improve Indian tennis and keep working towards it.
Really then, is this Hesh speaking about his grievances and frustration with Indian tennis administration genuinely, or is it a subtle attempt at announcing his own political ambitions, vis-a-vis the tennis federation? We'll have to wait and watch. The point is, if you want to see change in Indian tennis, how about getting into the system and being that change, instead of only critisizing and just talking about it?