Bangalore: In 1999, before the Indian team left for the World Cup in England, it had a series of less-than-stellar results, the most glaring being losing Tests to Pakistan in Chennai and Kolkata, the second from a position of strength. It was suggested that the team had the talent and the personnel to win, but not the fierce one-pointed desire.
In his SportStar column, Harsha Bhogle wrote that the Indian team should have a 16th travelling member - Leander Paes. His reasoning was that Paes had consistently exhibited - in the Olympics, in the Davis Cup - the ability to punch far above his weight when representing the country. Bhogle wanted some of that pride and desire to permeate through the Indian team. It was a thought whose spirit many people (myself included) agreed whole-heartedly with.
Which makes the current fiasco involving the Indian tennis contingent to the 2012 Olympics seem ironic in the extreme. After trumpeting the "I have always taken the greatest pride in representing my country" line repeatedly, Paes was quick to do an abrupt about-turn when it became apparent that he wouldn't get either Mahesh Bhupathi or Rohan Bopanna as his partner (not that either of these two has emerged with any credit). Apparently, "representing the country" is of the highest importance only when a partner of one's choice is available. The pride and desire everyone once hoped the cricket team would have are now conspicuous by their selective presence.