Kolkata: The role Dr Vece Paes in mentoring the career of his son and the Indian tennis icon, Leander Paes, has been too well documented over the years. It was hence an emotional moment for the father-son duo and sporting fraternity of the City of Joy when Leander and Irfan Pathan, former Indian allrounder, turned out in whites to play a cricket match between CC & FC XI and Doctors XI at the historic CC & FC ground for the inaugural Dr Vece Paes Cricket Cup on Tuesday.
Dr Paes, now in his 75th year and not keeping too well, had been a member of the bronze medallist Indian hockey team of 1972 Munich Olympics apart from being an allround sportsperson who was equally proficient in cricket, football and rugby in the local circles. The sporting genes certainly rubbed off on Leander, the ‘96 Atalanta Olympics bronze medallist and a seven-time Olympian - who has an eighth appearance on his radar for the Tokyo Games.
“I don’t know whether the Tokyo Games will happen or not, but it is still in my vision,” he told the media. “I want India’s name in the record books as a tennis player from the country to have played in eight Olympics Games,” he added.
However, the 47-year-old knows it’s easier said than done. “Staying away from the game for 11 months is not easy. And at this age, it’s twice as difficult,” he said. “I am trying to keep myself in good mental and physical condition and training for about three hours,’’ he said.
In the well-attended cricket match on Tuesday morning, the Doctors’ XI, for whom Paes jr and Pathan turned out - lost to CC & FC by three wickets. ‘‘Our plan is to host the Dr. Vece Paes Cricket Cup on India’s Republic Day every year. It gives us an opportunity to do something in honour of Dr Paes,’’ said Dr Manoj Khanna, a hair transplant specialist and the main organiser.
The felicitation of Dr Paes after the match saw both father and son breaking down when Leander addressed his father as his original ‘guru.’ Dr Paes’ reply was: ‘‘It gives the guru greater satisfaction when his ward outshines him. You have certainly done that.’’
Paes Sr had served as a medical consultant with various cricket bodies for over 25 years, including BCCI, Asian Cricket Council for 10 years and the Indian Davis Cup tennis team for over 25 years. He also worked as consultant to IMG Reliance as tournament doctor for the ATP Tennis Tournament in India & ISL since its inception in 2014.