First and foremost, the All India Tennis Association will have to re-do all posters for the upcoming Davis Cup tie against South Korea. Why? Because none of the pictured players like Somdev Devvarman and Yuki Bhambri will be seen in action during the February 1-3 tie at the DLTA!
Choosing not to make themselves available, the united rebel players have forced the AITA selection committee to pick a third string team on Friday. Along with Leander Paes — the only top-10 player in the team — the committee has selected VM Ranjeet (singles world rank 517), Vijayant Malik (542) and Purav Raja (916, doubles 155) for the tie. Ashwin Vijayaraghavan (788) and Arjun Kadhe (1108) have been named reserves. Though the ultimate decision will depend on the non-playing captain, it was presumed that Paes would pair up with Raja who has had a good season in doubles last year, winning three ITF Futures meets.
“The players (referring to the eight who have rebelled) were informed that they could get back to AITA till 12 noon today. As we did not receive any communication, it was decided to select the team based on the available players,” informed AITA secretary general Bharat Oza.
Surprised to see the names of former Davis Cup reserve Sriram Balaji (324) and national hardcourt champion Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (423) missing from the list, it was informed that the duo had also made themselves unavailable for selection. It was later learnt that Nedunchezhiyan, Balaji and Vijay Sundar Prashanth (573) too, had joined the rebelling group.
The AITA gave a release stating that it had met the majority of the players' demands but stood firm on the decision of appointing the coach and captain. Relenting to increase the team size to six players, appointing a physiotherapist of the players’ choice and providing business-class tickets even for Asia/Oceania ties, the national body retained SP Misra as captain for the Korea tie as well as former Davis Cupper Zeeshan Ali as coach.
“We have given then all the time in the world to make themselves available for the tie. But they refused to budge. In terms of financial compensation, we have accepted all their demands. But the players want a coach and captain of their choice. It is not acceptable because a player cannot expect to be a player, coach, selector and administrator at the same time,” is what AITA CEO Hironmoy Chatterjee said.
What about disciplinary action? “How can you take disciplinary action if someone is unavailable?” Chatterjee questioned, but added that, “there is no room for further selection for this tie.” Stating that the players had overstepped, he also added that the AITA is open to discussions based on logic after the tie.
Newly-appointed coach Zeeshan is hurt by the recent events. The former Davis Cupper feels his coaching credentials helped the AITA give him this recognitiord by the players was that I didn’t know the youngsters. But if I don’t meet them, how would we know each other?” he questioned.