While one of the greatest joys of sport is being able to carry your country’s name on your shoulder, for Anand Amritraj, one of India’s brightest and most experienced tennis players, it is the ultimate one. He relived that joy once again as he put on a tri-coloured jacket while India hosted Serbia at a Davis Cup tie in Bangalore. No ordinary jacket, this particular piece of clothing was a memory, a proud recollection of India’s stint as finalists of Davis Cup in 1987. Keeping true to the pricelessness of that occasion, that particular kind of jacket was never made again. Perhaps the next time we reach the finals of the Davis Cup, we would see the return of the truly ‘Indian’ jacket.
As special as the jacket was, so was the one proudly wearing it. Anand Amritraj, a trendsetter throughout his career, is amongst the most notable names in the history of tennis in the country. A part of the Indian team for the 1974 acquired and 1987 Davis Cup, he has not only represented the country at top international competition but has also a distinction of being one of the greatest teachers of the sport. By the virtue of his excellent teaching skills he was the coach of the Indian contingent as they prepared to take on Serbia at the Davis Cup tie in Bangalore. Though we lost the tie to Serbia 3-2, Anand encouraged the boys to fight on and come back from a 2-0 deficit to make the final rubber the decider.
It takes a lot of heart to push a team to move ahead when down by two points, especially when the 114 year old Davis Cup has seen such comebacks only 51 times, only once before by India. But such was the tutelage of Anand Amritraj, a two-time Davis Cup Finalist; the team not only bounced back but did so in the most emphatic manner possible. After youngster Yuki Bhambri and Somdev Devvarman were drubbed in the first two encounters, the team of Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna, using their blend of experience and exuberance to got back into the game, opening the points account for India.
Following up on that Somdev, after a careful introspection of the previous defeat, tied scores with Serbia, taking the team a step closer to entering the World Group after being denied an entry in 2011, ironically by the Serbian team. Though advised otherwise, Anand Amritraj stuck to his guns and sent the young Yuki Bhambri to play in the rain interrupted decider which finally resulted in us being ousted. Despite the loss, Anand backed Yuki and expressed no regret in having sent the youngster to play the crucial tie, but emphasized on how it would make him a stronger player and help in emboldening the future of tennis in the country.
While winning and losing continue to be a part of sport, it is memories like the tri-coloured jacket that keeps the winning spirit alive.