Leander praises youngsters

New Delhi: Leander Paes on Saturday took a dig at the rebel players saying those who decided to play for the country emerged the "real winners" in the end.

"All of us are aware of the situation and what's going on here. There was enough temptation not to play. But these youngsters in the squad resisted that and came to play.

"They decided to put the country first. They are already the real winners… I respect every one of them," said the veteran doubles star after he partnered Purav Raja to guide India to victory in doubles in the Asia-Oceania group Davis Cup tie against South Korea.

Leander was critical of the rebel players who set preconditions for making themselves available to play for India and tried to intervene in the selection of the squad for the Olympics.

"Let me make one thing very clear... 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, not get involved in selection and administration," he said .

"Before the 2012 Olympics, I was asked who I would like to play with. More specifically, which team would have better chance of winning a medal. I gave my opinion. But in the end, it was not the team that I suggested was selected and then the controversy started," he shot back, when asked why he gave preferences before the Olympics last year.

"I have absolutely no problem in playing with anybody whether it is Mahesh (Bhupathi), (Rohan) Bopanna, Vishnu (Vardhan) or Purav (Raja). I've always played with any partner I was asked to. All I knew was I was asked to play for the country," Leander said.

Leander even came out in support of S.P. Mishra, whose removal as the non-playing captain was one of the demands made by Somdev Dev Varman, Bhupathi, Bopanna and others.

"With all the stuff that goes on, it is good to have someone like SP uncle, who can balance a lot of things," he said. "He is the solid, calming force in the team, it makes lot of difference."

Though Leander was full of praise for his teammates, he admitted it would be a tough day for India on Sunday.

"Considering the conditions and how fit the Koreans are, tomorrow we have a tough task. It will be difficult. We have got a big job to do. The boys will have to come out and play against a formidable Korean team," he said.

Leander said he would like to have a big team at his disposal to ensure that youngsters get their chances.

"I would love to have a big team. These young boys (the current team) have got the experience. No matter who is selected, the game is bigger than all of us. I say bring four playing members and five reserves. I have to compliment AITA from bringing a big band of players in home ties," he said.

"Yesterday (Friday), one guy (Vijayant Malik) was stretchered off the court. He gave everything to the flag. It wasn't lack of preparation, it was opportunity to play at this stage. You have got to nurture them," he said.

Mishra confirmed that Vijayant who had suffered cramps on Friday, would be fit for Sunday's reverse singles.

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