Indo-Pak Express

India’s Bopanna and Pakistan’s Qureshi are playing together again and it’s a fine tale to tell

It is tennis’ endearing version of growing old together. Rohan Bopanna and Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi, approaching their 41st birthdays this March, are serving and volleying together again. With the popular Indo-Pak pair joining hands for the upcoming ATP event at Acapulco, a Mexican wave is assured, from Maki in Pakistan’s west to Dong in India’s east. The 2010 US Open runners-up were staking out last month’s Australian Open for potential partners to play in the mid-March tournament. Their deciding to jam together points to an enduring friendship.

The duo is certainly unique — not too many sportspersons from India and Pakistan can play on the same team, without a fuss. And they’ve never made it sound like something unusual — just a regular tennis match, with a big booming Bopanna serve, and Aisam cutting off a winner with a volley at the net, that’s all. At a time when South and North Korean athletes are preparing to play on the same teams at the Olympics, proving that sporting spirit and maturity is a better story than rabid politics-as-usual, this Indo-Pak Express chugging along a scenic route is a fine tale to tell.

Cricket fans have, for years, loved to draw up fantasy teams where Sachin Tendulkar and Wasim Akram played on the same side. For years, hockey fans around the world have whispered about taking on the dull western astro-turf teams by drawing the best out of India and Pakistan. It needed two tennis players to bond over shared interests of Bollywood and greasy comfort food to go ahead and play as a team, without dragging any baggage onto a tennis court. Their kinship was tested around the last Davis Cup when India refused to travel to Pakistan, and Aisam boycotted the tie in a huff. But when they were stranded once again without partners, the decision to approach each other was the most obvious one.

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