Indian Selectors to deliberate whether to have Leander Paes in the team

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New Delhi, Mar 5: Senior Pro Leander Paes' place in Indian Davis Cup team will be up for discussion when the AITA Selection Committee meets tomorrow, March 6, to pick the squad for the upcoming Asia/Oceania Zone tie against Uzbekistan.

The selectors will also deliberate whether to go with two singles players or opt for three. Saketh Myneni, who pulled out of the New Zealand tie in the last minute, and Sumit Nagal have made themselves unavailable due to injury issues.

File photo: Leander Paes

Ramkumar Ramanathan, Yuki Bhambri and Rohan Bopanna would therefore be automatic selections due to their superior rankings.

When fit, Myneni has the ability to play both singles and doubles but now the question is whether to choose three singles players or two doubles' specialists.

In case the committee decides to pick three singles players, Bopanna's berth is certain since he is the best-placed Indian in the world rankings at number 24.

Bopanna was dropped from the side despite being higher-ranked than Paes in the previous tie in February but the big-server is likely to win back his place.

Bopanna did extremely well at the just-concluded Dubai ATP 500 event, where he ended runner-up with partner Marcin Matkowski and en route the final, he got the better of Paes and his partner Gracia Gulliermo-Lopez in the semifinals.

If ranking is the criteria, Paes will certainly lose his place in the side since he is placed fourth at number 62 with both Divij Sharan (54) and Purav Raja (56) now ahead of him.

There is also a feeling that if both Bopanna and Paes are picked, the team will be left with only Yuki and Ramkumar to compete in the singles.

If there is an injury breakdown, neither Bopanna nor Paes would be able to compete in singles five-setters if required.

Even if the Committee decides to have two singles players, left-handed Sharan and Raja may not be ignored this time with AITA officials going on record to say that they would like to give youngsters a chance to be in the team.

In that scenario, it looks like Paes will lose his place and he will have to wait for the record-breaking 43rd doubles win in Davis Cup.

The question would then be about the third singles player. There are two contenders, Tamil Nadu boys Prajnesh Gunneswaran and N Sriram Balaji.

Gunneswaran was in the side for the New Zealand tie in Pune, where India triumphed 4-1. The Asia/Oceania second-round tie, first for Mahesh Bhupathi as non-playing caption, is scheduled for April 7-9 in Bengaluru and the winner will advance to the World Group Play-off stage.

World number 68 Denis Istomin is likely to lead the visiting side. Istomin, who stunned Novak Djokovic in the Australian Open second round earlier this year, had played a pivotal role in his side's 3-1 win over Korea in the first round.

He won both his singles and the doubles rubber with Sanjar Fayziev to shape Uzbekistan's win in the away tie.

PTI

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