In a unique show of strength missing for over a decade, the Indian men's tennis team has decided to take on the All India Tennis Association (AITA) head on. The players, as is apparent from their mail to the federation, have not written to threaten a pullout from the Commonwealth Games or the Asian Games. However, the way things are shaping up it is an outcome that cannot be discounted.
HT first reported (August 6 edition) that players were peeved at not having received any money, apart for R 27,000 to Mahesh Bhupathi, from the Commonwealth Games preparatory amount of R 21 crore sanctioned by the Union Cabinet. Nothing moved.
Now, panicked by the media probe and player confrontation, the AITA and Sports Ministry babus are hastening to find a solution.
However, the misleading statements stemming from AITA must stop. The federation secretary, Anil Khanna, has stated in a press release: "As far as Davis Cup is concerned, the players are fully satisfied about their dues having been received up to date…"
This is a blatant misrepresentation of facts.
Davis Cup legend, Leander Paes, has definitely not received all the money that the federation owes him. Then, Khanna is not being entirely honest again when he says that players are certain to play. After all, he is aware that India's number one player, Somdev Devvarman, has repeatedly called him asking for support to help his fledging career. Khanna and gang have led him on a merry chase for more than a year now. India's number two singles player, Rohan Bopanna, is also not a great fan of AITA and has often spoken about the body's inept handling of money owed to players.
The point is that the players are expected to give up four weeks of earnings on the ATP Tour, lose out on ranking points and then play for national pride while putting their own interests on the backburner. Khanna has promptly shifted the blame onto the Ministry for not having changed its rules to accommodate the unique needs of tennis players.
While the others are not as diligent in submitting their expense details, AITA still needs to explain how it managed to lose Bhupathi's bills for last year's Wimbledon. The player was recently asked to submit another copy.
What's different this time around is that the players are united. That means that Paes and Bhupathi have temporarily forgotten their differences and decided to back the two singles players all the way. This time, it appears, Khanna will have to offer more than just slick promises to get the players to come around.