Indian tennis players haven’t been that hot on the world circuit but their childish behaviour at times leaves one cold. The recent spat between Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi reveals how Indian stars turn superbrats when success goes to their head.
Let’s face it. These gents have not set the world on fire individually. They have, though, done exceedingly well in the doubles or mixed doubles category. But that does not give them the licence to behave like lords. The blame must be shared by both for washing their dirty linen in public.
India’s non-playing captain Bhupathi started the spat by dropping Paes for the Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan in Bengaluru. Paes, 43, is not some budding player who can be axed without notice. It would have been sensible for the captain to take Paes aside and tell him that he won’t be playing before the tie.
It would have been better still if Paes had been dropped from the team altogether.
Paes reacted quite badly to his sacking. Worse still, he made his feeling public. This lead to Bhupathi justifying his stand through social media on why the veteran was dropped.
He said Paes was not promised a place in the team and that dropping him was justified considering the other team members he had. He also accused Paes of doing a similar thing 19 years ago in a Facebook post.
Paes countered that by saying that Bhupathi was misusing his position to sack him from the team.
This kind of spat gives a bad name to tennis and all sport in India for that matter.
A look at India’s tennis history reveals that the country had only a few stars of note. Vijay Amrithraj and Ramanathan Krishnan were excellent players who shone on the world stage individually. But they were humble and thorough gentlemen.
Undoubtedly, Paes and Bhupathi are among the best in the world in the doubles category. But they behave as if they are “God’s Gift to Tennis”.
Sports is also all about humility. Players like Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer are shining examples of how top sportspersons should behave.
India has a huge following in tennis. By behaving like children, Paes and Bhupathi are not setting good examples for their fans and young hopefuls. By going on to the social media, Bhupathi has put himself in poor light as his comments would have been read by thousands.
And where is the Indian tennis authority in all this? They should have intervened and put an end to it.
If Paes is not in their scheme of things, it would have been better to take the veteran aside and tell him that he should make way for younger players. That is what most sports bodies do. By picking him, they gave him licence to assume that he would play.
The jealousies between Paes and Bhupathi came to the fore with the latter’s action. The shelf life of both players is on the wane. Bhupathi luckily is only a non-playing captain.
But Paes must go for the good of Indian tennis. At 43, he should enjoy his fame and fortune instead of ruining his own reputation with petty squabbles.
The views expressed in this column are the authors.