DAVIS CUPPER Prakash Amritraj is sticking to his guns even though the All India Tennis Association (AITA) has shown support for the captain, Leander Paes. On Tuesday, an emotional Amritraj spoke to the Hindustan Times from Los Angeles, saying how Paes lied on occasion and “butchered” him.
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) is backing Leander. What will be your plan?
Rohan and I have taken a stand. We are going to stick to it. We are in no mood for any compromise. We haven’t heard from the AITA yet. We’ll see what they decide. I know what we are doing is in the best interest of the team. It would be silly to argue with Leander’s record. He is a great player. We have no problems in him being in the team. Having a non-current player as the captain is what we are looking at.
What made you take an extreme step against such a great player?
We need a captain who would call us when we are injured. A captain who at the time of war would support us and keep us pumped up. We don’t need a captain who goes out in the media and tells lies. When my wrist was injured and had a surgery he never bothered to call. In 2006, when we were playing Pakistan in the Davis Cup, he came up to Rohan and me and said, “I hope the next time I don’t have to bail you guys out.” He told media, “It’s sad that a 34-year-old had to step in to save the tie for India.” Everyone knows what he did to Mahesh. What kind of captain does that make him?
You skipped practice for a day when preparing for Uzbekistan. Were you really fit?
My falling ill had nothing to do with the party. I fell sick after eating something at the hotel, not at the party. I missed practice on Monday, on Tuesday I came and hit a few balls. On Wednesday and Thursday I had long sessions. I can assure you it was nothing serious.
How difficult was it to play reverse singles?
Mahesh wanted me to play the doubles. Leander called me unfit and instead went for Rohan. Even Rohan doesn’t feel he advices him the right strategies. There should be democracy in the team but there is Leander’s dictatorship. He has completely butchered me. I can’t tell you how I played that match. He made me so mad.
Is your father running for Davis Cup captaincy?
No, not at all.
Karan Rastogi backed out today. Is your group falling apart?
He signed the letter because he has also gone through what we did. When Rohan asked him for his opinion he went ahead and signed it. His backing out will not make us move one bit from our stand.
Will react at the right time, says Leander
Meanwhile, the man in the midst of all the controversy himself said that he would not react to anything at the moment.
“All I can say at the moment is that I will react to it when the right time comes. At this moment, I do not want to react to anything,” Paes said. Paes is expected to be in Dubai for the Dubai Open later this week.
Rastogi backs out
A stressed Karan Rastogi on Tuesday backed out from his stand of not playing under Leander Paes in the Davis Cup.
Rastogi had joined hands with Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna and Prakash Amritraj in demanding that Paes be removed as captain for the April tie against Japan. While Bopanna and Amritraj are in US, Rastogi, playing here, was left to handle the media. Weary of it all, Rastogi spoke to AITA secretary-general, Anil Khanna, and withdrew his support to the rebels.
“I am ready to play under Leander Paes or any captain if I am selected,” said Rastogi. “I met Anil Khanna in the morning and we sorted everything out. I told him about the issues (that made him sign the letter) and he was cordial and understanding,” said Rastogi. “The chapter is closed now.” Asked if he had spoken to Bopanna or Amritraj after backing out, Rastogi said: “I have informed both about it.”
Did he regret signing the letter in the first place? “I discussed it with my family and we all decided that I should concentrate on my game.”
Meanwhile, Khanna said he expected others to follow Rastogi. “When I met Karan he told me he wanted to concentrate on his game. We discussed everything and all is fine. He is a good player and I hope the other boys will also to the same,” said Khanna.
An executive committee meeting will take up the matter on Thursday.
Leander fails to appear
Meanwhile, Paes and Vijay Amritraj, expected to play a celebrity event at the Johnnie Walker Classic golf here, failed to turn up for the same.