Kolkata: India’s non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi on Wednesday said the absence of his longstanding doubles partner Leander Paes won’t be felt in the latter’s own backyard when India take on Italy in a Davis Cup World Group qualifiers tie at the Calcutta South Club here on Saturday. Paes, who became the most successful doubles player in the history of Davis Cup with a record 43 wins, was dropped from the squad with the new selection committee, led by Rohit Rajpal, saying they went largely by the rankings.
Asked if India would be at a disadvantage sans Paes in his own backyard, Bhupathi dismissed it: “No, it’s not.” Bhupathi said it’s a captain’s ‘dream’ to have left-hander Prajnesh Gunneswaran in the side as it helps in the team balance. Prajnesh, who is the country’s highest ranked singles player, will spearhead India’s challenge against the higher-ranked Italians led by World No.18 Marco Cecchinato, who upset Novak Djokovic in the French Open quarterfinals last year.
The 29-year-old Prajnesh, who started 2018 as World no.243 and ended it as No.104, won two ATP Challenger titles and also upset now World No.27 Denis Shapovalov on grass at the Stuttgart Open last year.”Prajnesh has got a big serve, big forehand, and he’s a left hander. I think it’s the captain’s dream to have that kind of variation in your side,” Bhupathi said at the pre-draw press conference here.