The standoff between the All India Tennis Association and the eight rebels is headed for a showdown. The players wrote back to the federation on Monday rejecting SP Misra as captain as well as Zeeshan Ali as coach for the Davis Cup tie against South Korea.
"Considering we only play 2 or 3 ties a year, every single tie is important and we need to look for the captain of our future Davis Cup team right now," said the email. It goes on to add: "None of us can dispute Zeeshan's credentials as a player. But to us this decision does not make sense. None of the younger players on the team have met or had any interactions with him. We have also not seen him in any of the futures, challengers or tour events we have played." They have suggested he be with the team as a manager and learn the nuances before being appointed coach.
Why Cup experience?
The rebels are sticking to their choice of Rohit Rajpal or Anand Amritraj as captain and Yuki Bhambri's mentor Aditya Sachdeva as coach.
The national body's decision to appoint only a former Davis Cup player as coach of the team met with the derision it deserved. "We would also like to point out that if your criteria for the coach is to be implemented, then not a single one of the coaches who have helped us throughout our careers can be considered for the job as they haven't played Davis Cup for India," said the players.
The federation's desire to involve the Sports Authority of India found only partial favour with the dissenters. "We are willing to accept assistance from SAI for a doctor. But when it comes to the team physio, we feel like we are not willing to make any compromise as our health and injury prevention is absolutely essential to all of us." They have named Yash Pandey as their choice.
The mail begins gently but the tenor hardens as it goes on. The players are not willing to compromise on parity of travel arrangements. "This is an absolute must for all of us. We are not willing to compromise. The 4 playing members must all be treated equally while travelling to and from Davis Cup ties. We are still requesting they all travel on business-class tickets." It gets even more firm when it comes to having a six-member team: "This request also cannot be overlooked by the committee. We need this to nurture our future players and our future teams. We also suggest that the AITA looks for prize money compensation towards the 5th and 6th members."
Reiterating the need for clarity in just how much money the AITA gets for Davis Cup, the players while accepting the formula proposed by the federation, made another plea for clarity in dealing. "It is absolutely necessary that there is complete transparency from the AITA to the players about all payments. This includes payments from the ITF as well as any Davis Cup endorsements or sponsorship for every single tie." The players end the communication saying that, "... we stay UNITED in our cause to make all playing conditions better for Team India."
However, this mail does not make any threat of a boycott. But then, neither have the players responded to the federation's request about their availability for the tie.
AITA stays firm
AITA CEO Hironmoy Chatterjee was categorical in stating that the federation is not going to bend any further. "We have done what we could. Now it is up to the players to declare their availability. From the ones available, we will pick the team."
In response to the fresh email from the players Chatterjee went on to emphasise: "There is no way that we can meet all their demands. We have offered all that we could, we are not going to entertain this any more. They are not willing to accommodate and have reiterated their earlier demands. As far as the AITA is concerned we have already declared the captain and the coach and are not backing off from that."