Thursday, September 13, 2012

India appears to be the hot favourite

CHANDIGARH, September 12, 2012

The young Indian team has already gained respect from the New Zealand camp. On the eve of the draw to be made by the Punjab governor, there was no doubt in anybody's mind that India was the hot favourite.

The 20-year-old Yuki Bhambri, the spearhead of the team, spoke with considerable maturity as the teams faced the media as part of the pre-draw ritual. He said it was not about being No.1 or No.2, the idea was to win three of the five matches in the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania relegation play-off from September 14 to 16.

Chance for youngsters

Captain S.P. Misra said he would have liked to have one or two senior players in the squad, but conceded it was a great opportunity for the current bunch to make a mark.

He was clear that any four of the six players were capable of making the squad on merit and that the team would only be finalised before the draw on Thursday.

While the captain stressed that the hotter the weather the better for the Indian camp, the 179th-ranked Yuki pointed out that the synthetic court was fast and would make for short points in the best-of-five-set competition.

The Kiwis — Jose Statham (298), Daniel King-Turner (322), Michael Venus (698) and Artem Sitak (790) — may not have high singles rankings, but Misra warned that the teams were always inspired playing in Davis Cup and that rankings did not matter.

As the 262nd-ranked Vishnu Vardhan highlighted, all the six Indian players have been performing very well on the professional circuit and have come for the match with a lot of confidence and physically well fit.

Of course, three of the four players, Yuki, Vishnu and local lad Sanam Singh, select themselves.

The only question is whether the 94th-ranked Divij Sharan would get the nod for the doubles in place of Saketh Myneni.

Quite diplomatic

Divij was quite diplomatic when he said a decision would be taken in the best interests of the team. When queried whether he fancied the idea of taking the court on the opening day, the 367th-ranked Sanam said all the players were ready to give 100 per cent and it was up to the captain to take a call.

While Saketh (383) felt it would be a challenge for India, Sriram Balaji (337) was categorical that the result would be in favour of India.

The New Zealand captain Marcel Vos said the team was quite at home and praised India for its strong Davis Cup history.

He also felt the young and inexperienced Indian team presented an opportunity for his side, but hurried to add that it was a good team.

All the four New Zealand players, mostly living in the US or Russia, said they were excited about the match and hoped their combined experience would prevail over the weekend.
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