Underdogs India face a stern test against Korea
Thrust into action courtesy a controversy, it will be a test of nerves and skills for the Indian rookies when they take on South Korea in the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I tie, beginning here tomorrow.
With only Leander Paes as the top player in the side, V M Ranjeet, Vijayant Malik and Purav Raja will make their Davis Cup debuts and they will have to play out of their skins to help India win the tie.
It's the second consecutive tie, the build up of which has been marred by an needless controversy.
Earlier, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna were axed before the New Zealand tie in September last year, on grounds of indiscipline.
And now 11 top players, led by Somdev Devvarman, have been left out as the disgruntled players and the national federation could not reach a settlement in time.
India would have started as outright favourites at home with a full-strength team against the current team fielded by Korea but now the hosts would enter the contest as underdogs.
It will be interesting to see how Paes, who will be playing his 49th Davis Cup tie, anchors the side. He will be in action only on Saturday for the doubles but his role is much bigger on Friday and Sunday when the singles rubbers will be played.
There was a palpable change in the mood of the camp ever since Paes joined the team on Tuesday. It took just the presence of Paes to turn the mood from sombre to jovial.
And in Davis Cup, it's completely different from the matches on the Tour. Playing for the nation is an incentive enough for the players to push themselves to limit.
It will be first assignment for Zeeshan Ali as India coach and last for S P Misra as non-playing captain and both of them would want a good result for obvious reasons.