Leander Paes emphasised that the game was bigger than everyone, and said the rebelling players weakened the Indian team for the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania group ‘I’ tie against Korea with misplaced priorities.

“'The game is bigger than all of us. It will always be,” Paes said at the pre-draw press conference at the R.K. Khanna Stadium here on Wednesday.

Captain S.P. Misra, whom Paes admired for his “gentle and quiet style”, also said: “captain and players come and go, the game goes on”.

Revealing that he had a long chat with Somdev Devvarman at the Australian Open, Paes said it was important for the players, “to be clear about what they want”.

Addressing the media directly on the subject and the part played by a section in fuelling the player revolt, Paes said it was important for everyone to care for the game.

“The essence should not be lost, and country should not suffer,” he said.

Paes said that he was always available to play for the country, except on rare occasions. He said “rebellion was not important”, at the expense of playing for the country.

The Atlanta Olympics bronze medallist, who had helped India seal the tie by winning the fifth rubber at the same venue on grass in 1991 against the Koreans, said the Koreans were a resilient lot.

Paes said he was very respectful and proud of the young players in the Indian squad. “I love to play for the people. It is more important than playing for self. In the last 12 months, the partners have switched around, and I haven’t got a choice. I will not do the selection,” said Paes, even as he politely warned that Purav Raja would have to play his best to carry him through the doubles rubber on Saturday.

Raja, who has had a career-best doubles rank of 120 and has played Challenger level successfully, was quite relaxed and responded by saying that Paes should be able to carry him through a five-setter if pushed.

Positive atmosphere

On his part, Paes said the atmosphere in the team was positive and vibrant to the extent that he was “at the end of every joke”. In a lighter vein, Paes suggested that the squad had watched a film on Tuesday evening, and refused to divulge the name of it, allowing everyone to guess that it could be his film “Rajdhani”.

On a more serious note, Paes said that it was for the first time in a long time that the Indian team was going into a home tie as an underdog.

“That is the beauty of it. It takes all the pressure away,” he said.

Former National champion V.M. Ranjeet said he had trained well and ready to give his best, while Vijayant Malik echoed his sentiments by saying, “am excited and ready to give my 100 per cent”.

Captain Misra hoped something good would come out of the turmoil, possibly with a good fare in the tie against the Koreans, starting on Friday.

While Paes recalled losing to the current Korean captain, Yong-Yoon Il in the Asian Games in Hiroshima in 1994, the Koreans themselves were not willing to look a gift horse in the mouth, as they acknowledged that the cream of Indian tennis was missing in the tie and there was no grass court to tackle.

The slow synthetic court may be tailor-made for the Koreans, but they went about their task quietly, sparing few words for the media.

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