Leander Paes, Sania Mirza to lead Indian challenge at Asian Games
New Delhi: Indian selectors reposed faith in Leander Paes as the 40-year-old veteran was today included in the Asian Games squad along with established stars Sania Mirza and Rohan Bopanna.
The selection committee announced a 12-member team, which also has last edition`s gold medal winners Somdev Devvarman and Sanam Singh. Somdev had won the men`s singles gold as well as the men`s doubles gold with Sanam.
Tall and big-serving Saketh Myneni and Yuki Bhambri will make their debut at the prestigious quadrennial event, to be held in Incheon, Korea from September 19-October 4.
It will be interesting to see with whom Paes is paired since Bopanna and Myneni of late have played Davis Cup ties together and Somdev and Sanam are the defending champions.
National Selection Committee chairman Anil Dhupar defended Paes` selection in the team.
"He is the biggest Indian star. He performing very well at the Grand Slams, so he had to be in the team. Last time there were reasons for him not to play," Dhupar told PTI.
Asked with whom Paes will team up, Dhupar said captain Anand Amritraj will decide on the pairings.
Asked if youngsters such as Ramkumar Ramanathan and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan were considered, Dhupar said, "We are encouraging young players that is why we have chosen Saketh in the team."
Ramkumar had recently made two back-to-back ITF singles finals in Spain and won one title.
Paes had missed out on the 2010 Guangzhou Games along with Bopanna and Mahesh Bhupathi.
In the women`s side, country`s leading player Sania will spearhead the challenge along with singles number one Ankita Raina. Sania had won a singles bronze and mixed doubles silver with Vishnu Vardhan.
Prarthana Thombare, Snehadevi Reddy, Natasha Palha and Rishika Sunkara are the other players in the squad.
There are two reserves in the side, left-handed Divij Sharan in men`s squad and diminutive Shweta Rana in the women`s.
Sania`s mother Nasima Mirza will captain the women`s squad while Leander`s father, Vece Paes is team doctor. The team will have two trainers in Anand Kumar and Dharmendar Pratap Singh.