Jul 05, 2012 at 05:59pm IST

Rajdeep Sardesai on the Indian tennis row

Hello and welcome to DRS - my very own personal space where we discuss matters cricket. This week I thought we would discuss not so much cricket but the wider world of sport, particularly because this has been one of the most depressing weeks when it comes to Indian sport, quite simply because of the soap opera that Indian tennis has been reduced to.

One of the great joys over the last 20 years and watching Indian sport was to track the achievements of Mahesh Bhupathi and Leander Paes. Remember all those wonderful chest bumps, the grand slams that eventually led them to be called the 'Indian Express'.

To win 25 grand slams in the world of doubles is no easy feat, and Paes and Bhupathi over the years have proven that class is permanent. The have had a remarkable longevity when it comes to doubles in tennis. And yet, over the last few days, two individuals who we always thought as one, as one team, suddenly appear to be prima donnas, suddenly appear to be brats, suddenly appear to be at each other's throats, calling each other back-stabbers, liars. It's almost as if the icons, that we though them to be, have feet of clay. That here are two individuals, magnificent sportsmen, behaving unfortunately more like politicians.

And then it makes you wonder whether the Olympics is really about honour and glory and about the country, or is it about individual ambition, individual egos and a sudden bitterness that has crept into a personal relationship. One would have thought that Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi were joined at the hip. As it turns out, they are far from being united; they are completely divided. And their personality clashes threaten to destroy India's Olympic hopes.

What makes it doubly sad is that it comes at a time when so much is being invested into the Indian Olympic dream. For years, we have been a county which hasn't had any expectations before any Olympics. We won what? One individual Olympic gold medal in six decades. We haven't won a hockey gold since 1980. And we really haven't done anything, in any major sport, to distinguish ourselves in the Olympics.

But now suddenly this year we seem to have an opportunity. Our archers - Deepika Kumari is now the world No. 1 in archery. We have shooters who could well get a bagful of gold. We have boxers who have qualified for the finals, wrestlers who are doing well. Saina Nehwal who is suddenly doing remarkably well winning both the Indonesia and Thailand Open.

It suddenly seems that non-cricketing sports are finally emerging - after years of slumber. And yet rather than seeing this moment as the tipping point in Indian sport, what do we see? Two of our finest non-cricket sportsmen of the last 20 years at each other's throat, making the headlines for all the wrong reasons.

It saddens me, because one has always felt that Leander and Mahesh have epitomised some of the best qualities of sport. They have always gone out there with the Tricolour on their chests and braved the odds to win Davis Cup matches. To then wonder whether all that was a dream and what we are now going through is a nightmare is truly depressing.

One can only hope that Leander and Mahesh realise that at the end of the day they don't just represent themselves, they represent a sport. They represent Olympic sport in the true sense of the term. They are ambassadors of the sport. That's how we would like to see Leander and Mahesh - not simply as just another pair of sportspersons who end up making us look at the darker side of life, at the petty jealousies, the envies that we thought we were above.

We always think our sportsmen are not mere mortals. We tend to almost raise them to the divinity because of their achievements, because of their athleticism, because of their sheer skill. That's how I would like to remember Leander and Mahesh - as two formidable sportspersons who brought glory to the nation, not as two darkened individuals who remind us that somewhere all of us are mere mortals with feet of clay.

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