New Delhi: For veteran Leander Paes, the team of rookies fighting it out against South Korea are already "winners", simply because they resisted the "temptation" of joining the rebels. Paes combined with rookie Purav Raja by winning the doubles rubber to give India the much-needed fillip after both the singles matches were lost on Friday.
With a relieved smile on his face, the 39-year-old lavished praise on his team of first-timers while admonishing the rebel group comprising the likes of Mahesh Bhupathi, Somdev Devvarman and Vishnu Vardhan, who refused to play due to their differences with AITA over governance issues.
"To me, they are already winners to have come out to play here. Every one of them was tempted to not be here but they put country first. I respect every one of them for doing that," said Paes as his emotions took over him at the post-match press conference.
Paes and his 97th doubles partner Raja pipped Yong-Kyu Lim and debutant Ji Sung Nam 6-4 7-5 6-2 in a hard-fought contest.
On a practical note, Paes was candid enough to admit that the team faces an uphill task tomorrow.
"Considering the conditions and how fit the Koreans are, tomorrow we have a tough task. It will be difficult tomorrow. We have got a big job to do. The boys will have to come out and play against a formidable Korean team."
Paes also opened up about the players' revolt that forced India to field a depleted team.
"I play for my flag. It is not a player's prerogative to get involved in governance and selection. We players are supposed to play," said the only senior player of the Indian team. (Before the 2012 Olympics), I was asked who I would like to play with. More specifically, which team would have better chance of winning the medal, I gave my opinion. But in the end, it was not the team that was selected and then the controversy started," he shot back, when asked why he gave preferences during the pre-Olympic controversy last year. But players should not get involved beyond that. It is not their prerogative. They should not get involved in selection and administration," he maintained.