Bangalore: The recent shenanigans over team selection and a player-boycott notwithstanding, the Indian team Wednesday presented itself as a unified unit all set to take on Indonesia in the Asia-Oceania Davis Cup Group 1 play-off beginning here Friday. Team captain Shiv Prakash Misra, one of the key elements in the dispute between the country's top players and the All India Tennis Association, went some distance to convince the media that everything was hunky-dory within the squad.
Conspicuous by his absence at the media conference here Wednesday was veteran Leander Paes, who is set to play his 50th Davis Cup tie. It was explained that Paes had to rush to Mumbai due to an "emergency" and was returning Wednesday night. The nature of the "emergency" was not disclosed. "The atmosphere in the team is very good. The players are working very hard and we look to win the tie," said the 71-year-old Misra who will be stepping down as Davis Cup captain on conclusion of this weekend's tie.
Echoing the views were Somdev Devvarman, Yuki Bhambri and Sanam Singh who said that the focus was on the tie. Earlier this year, the players, led by Devvarman, had demanded, among other things, that Misra be replaced as the team captain. The dispute snowballed into a controversy with Devvarman along with other top players opting to make themselves available for the tie with Korea in February.
Reflecting on his tenure as the captain, Misra said: "It has been a long journey of six years. I think, the Indian team needs a younger captain. "During my stint, we scored some notable victories, especially the 3-2 win against Brazil in Chennai after being down 0-2." Devvarman, when asked about the team atmosphere and especially his relationship with Paes who had stayed away from the dispute, insisted that there was no animosity.
"It is great to be back (in the Davis Cup team). We are having a good time and in fact, went bowling last night. There is no animosity between me and Leander. "It is not that I saw him here for the first time. On the tour, we have seen each other a few times and we have a lot of respect for each other. "We both know the reasons for what we did. We still think highly of him and his credentials speak of themselves," said Devvarman. On this weekend's tie, 28-year old Devvarman, the highest ranked player here at 208, said he was happy with his form and fitness coming into the Davis Cup match.
"I had some good wins this year and so am match-sharp. It was tough coming back after the shoulder surgery. I started this year at something like 660 and now moved up to 208. I am not too concerned about the rankings, but more important is to stay healthy," said Devvarman, who was ranked a career-high 62 in July 2011. The draw for the tie is scheduled for 2 p.m. Friday. Both teams will finalise and announce their combination an hour prior to the draw ceremony.