1/31/2019 2:32:09 PM (GMT+3)

Ramanathan Krishnan will remain the best ever: Naresh Kumar

Ramanathan Krishnan will remain the best ever: Naresh Kumar

KOLKATA: A conversation with Naresh Kumar is like riding a time machine—and his memory remains sharp.

Kumar, who turned 90 in December, played his first Wimbledon in 1949. He notably guided India as the non-playing Davis Cup captain, which went on to beat a strong French side 3-2 away in Frejus in 1993. He was captain of the side when the generational transition happened — an ageing Ramesh Krishnan playing with and then giving way to the young and upcoming Leander Paes.

“I remember every Davis Cup campaign that India has been a part of since 1949 when I started playing. Although I retired from playing in 1960, I have been quite regular on the courtside as non-playing captain of the Indian side,” Kumar told www.khelupdates.com.

The Kolkata resident was sidelined recently owing to health concerns, but he is back once again on the courtside to watch India take on the formidable Italy in their Davis Cup World Group qualifiers at the South Club here from Friday.

“I’m thrilled to see Kolkata hosting the Davis Cup once again. I’m sure our boys will be able to put a good fight in front of a strong audience. I will be cheering for them,” he added.

When asked about his favourite Davis Cup moment, he was quick to point to India’s famous victory against France.

“It was a heroic moment for Indian sport as well. It is not often that you get to see a nerve-wracking decider in the Davis Cup.”

After scores were tied 2-2 ahead of the last singles match, Ramesh Krishnan defeated Rodolphe Gilbert in a titanic five-set match to seal the tie for India on red clay — traditionally Indians’ least favourite surface. Kumar was the team’s non-playing captain then.

Not surprisingly, Kumar rated his contemporary, the legendary Ramanathan Krishnan, as the best India has ever produced.

“To me, it will always be Krishnan. He was truly a pioneer in Indian tennis. Getting into the semifinals twice at Wimbledon — in 1960 and 1961 — is not a child’s play. Although there was no ranking system back then, he was in the top 10 in Lance Tingay’s rankings,” said Kumar, who played with Krishnan in the Davis Cup as also his doubles partner.

As the Davis Cup format has been tweaked from 2019 and a new one put into place, Kumar said he is opposed to the changes. Most notably, zonal ties will be played over two days instead of three and matches would be over three sets instead of five—the India-Italy tie would follow this format.

“I somehow feel that the charm of the Davis Cup has been nipped in the bud. The traditional format helped tennis lovers see many great teams come here and play. You cannot just kill a tournament like Davis Cup in order to fit it in the rigorous calendar,” Kumar added.