New Delhi:Veteran Davis Cupper Leander Paes, named non-playing captain for the Asia-Oceania Group I Davis Cup tie against Uzbekistan here this month, scotched all speculations about his participation Sunday and said he would not play.
"I can play against Uzbekistan if I really push myself, but I will be doing so knowing that I am not 100 per cent fit. The injury is still around and my ankle is strapped up, so if I take the risk, there is a danger of making permanent damage to it," Paes told reporters here.
"As an athlete and captain, I need to be honest to my team," Paes, who arrived here in the morning, told reporters after India's practice session at the National Sports Club of India grass courts.
There were doubts about 35-year-old's availability for the tie slated for Feb 8-10. Paes injured his right ankle during the Australian Open.
But Paes once again flaunted his patriotism, saying that as an athlete and captain of the team it would be unfair on his part to play knowing that he was not fully fit.
Paes did not pick up the racket at the practice session. Instead, he was seen monitoring Prakash Amritraj and Rohan Bopanna and giving them tips.
Paes, who holds the best record in the world team event for India, said that his absence would provide a good opportunity to the youngsters and they should be up to the task to carry the nation's flag.
"This is a good opportunity for the youngsters like Rohan and Prakash. I would like to see them grab it with open arms," he said.
"Now is the time for them to take the responsibility of carrying India's flag on their shoulders."
Barring Mahesh Bhupathi and Somdev Barman, all other members of the team have already arrived here. Somdev, who is flying from the US, and Bhupathi are expected to join the squad Tuesday.
Paes said he would have preferred to have all the players assemble a week before the tie. He himself arrived late for the tie as he was laid down by food poisoning in Singapore.
Amritraj and Bopanna, along with stand-by players Ashutosh Singh and Vishnu Vardhan have been practising here for three days.
"It would be tough for Somdev as he is coming so late. I had food poisoning, so I was late. But I would have been delighted if the team would have assembled here a week before," Paes said.
He also expressed his happiness over Bhupathi's decision to make himself available for Davis Cup.
Last year Bhupathi opted out against Uzbekistan saying that he would never play in the team event for India again. However, he made an about turn on his decision this year by expressing his desire to play for India again.
Like his other team mates, Paes also considers India as the overwhelming favourites against the Uzbeks, who according to him are better players on clay.
"Off course, we are the favourites, but the singles shouldn't be taken lightly. The fact that the tie is on grass is a big advantage for us," he said.
"(Denis) Istomin is in good form. I have done some homework on his game. I watched his first match at the Australian Open to have an idea of his style."
Interestingly, the Uzbeks here have looked pretty confident about their chances. According to them, they are better prepared this time with grass court shoes in place, especially acquired for the tie, unlike in the Jaipur tie two years ago when they were whitewashed by India.
Paes, however, said that the shoes that the Uzbeks have acquired from Moscow were not made for grass court.
"I saw their shoes today, they weren't grass court ones; they are clay court shoes. Even Farrukh Dustov enquired me about the shoes," he said.