Bengaluru: One-time partners turned foes, Mahesh Bhupathi-Leander Paes version 2.0 is getting nastier.
Following Davis Cup non-playing captain Bhupathi’s social media driven response to Paes on Sunday, former captain Jaidip Mukerjea threw his weight behind Bhupathi’s revelation that it was Paes who was instrumental in him being removed as captain before Enrico Piperno was sacked as coach in 1999.
“That’s true what he said,” Mukerjea said. Paes, who played under Mukerjea for long, didn’t get any brownie points from the former captain. Significantly, the 74-year-old went on to reveal how Paes had let him and the team down in the past.
“It happened in 1998 in Italy. We were playing them in a World Group match and we had a good chance of winning. We had Bhupathi, Leander, (Srinath) Prahlad and (Syed) Fazaluddin.
A week before the tie, Leander said he wasn’t going to play because of an injury. I was in touch with him then and I told him we can win this match. Till the day before the draw, I had kept it open for him. Unfortunately he didn’t come and we lost 1-4,” Mukerjea said.
“The Davis Cup finished on Sunday and on Monday he played the Chennai Open and reached the quarter-finals. We made certain observations in the report to the federation. He was upset with me for that.
“In 1999, when I had to speak to R.K. Khanna (then AITA president), I heard the rumour that he didn’t want me to be captain anymore. He was the main player so I decided to step down.”
Mukerjea also remarked that to Paes’ decision to speak to the media ahead of the Davis Cup tie, which had two debutants, was in bad taste.
“When the team was announced and Leander went to the media before the Davis Cup, that was in bad taste. He could have done it after the tie was over. Just before the players are going to play, it affects the morale. Leander is one of the greatest Indian players but he is not a spring chicken anymore — he is 43. His contribution for the country has been enormous. (But) this team is the future,” stated the 1966 Davis Cup finalist.