Venue change shakes Indian tennis
The AITA announced that incumbent Mahesh Bhupathi would be replaced by former player Rohit Rajpal as India’s non-playing captain.Updated: Nov 05, 2019 23:32 IST
The International Tennis Federation’s (ITF) decision to shift the India-Pakistan Davis Cup tie from Islamabad to a neutral venue may have come as a relief to the All India Tennis Association (AITA) but not before lighting the tinder box.
After months of uncertainty, the Davis Cup Committee on Tuesday announced that the Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie on November 29-30 will be moved out of the Pakistani capital.
The decision to shift the tie came just after the All India Tennis Association (AITA) had handed over India’s captaincy to former Davis Cupper Rohit Rajpal from Mahesh Bhupathi.
AITA’s decision, taken only hours before the change of venue, has not gone down well with some players who had pulled out of the Islamabad tie but fancied their chances once the venue was changed.
Initially slated for September, India’s tie against Pakistan was postponed to November due to security concerns. Players and non-playing captain Bhupathi opted not to travel to the neighbouring country.
Bopanna slams AITA
Ace doubles player Rohan Bopanna expressed disappointment by slamming AITA’s “shocking decision” for not consulting players before taking the decision.
“It surprises me that AITA changed the Davis Cup captain before ITF announced the final decision (to shift venue) yesterday. What shocks me more is that none of the players were asked or even informed that the captain was going to be changed. One needs to realise that when players represent their country, there is much more than just the skill they bring on court,” Bopanna tweeted.
“The camaraderie amongst players and between the players and their captain is where we derive a lot of support from. Contrary to the incessant belief and actions of AITA and their manner of functioning, when it comes to the decisions they make in context to the ‘player’s best interest’; with my years of experience and representation—I would like for the system to know that the player’s best interest is when the players are heard. And in this case, at least informed. When we bring out patriotism on court with racquet in hand, we also bring a voice,” added Bopanna.
Bopanna’s comments did not go down well with AITA as the federation feels that it is not the prerogative of the players to discuss administrative matters.
“Selection of the captain and team is the (selection) committee and federation’s responsibility. Players are supposed to play if selected, they are not supposed to comment on selection matters. If someone is doing it they are exceeding their brief and that is exactly what Rohan is doing,” said AITA secretary-general Hironmoy Chatterjee.
The Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) were given five days on Tuesday to choose a neutral venue and the selection committee will choose the team on November 10 after knowing the venue. “These matters will be discussed during the meeting,” said Chatterjee.
Multiple Grand Slam winner Bhupathi was named the non-playing captain of India’s Davis Cup squad in December 2016, taking over from Anand Amritraj. Chatterjee revealed that Bhupathi’s contract was already over and he was given an extension for the previous tie against Italy in February in Kolkata.
“Bhupathi had an assignment for two years which had already expired. In the last tie too he was given an extension. We needed to take a call (on captaincy) because he opted out (of the Pakistan tie),” said Chatterjee.
“Why are the players commenting on this? They are not supposed to indulge in these matters.”
On his part, Bhupathi said he was informed about AITA’s decision but that was before the change of venue. “I was informed but that was before the venue change. I am waiting for the team to be announced on November 10,” said Bhupathi.
Aisam, Aqeel to skip?
PTI adds from Karachi: The Pakistan Tennis Federation will hold a meeting on Wednesday to decide whether to appeal the decision of ITF. “Our top players like Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Aqeel Khan had made it clear earlier they would not be available for selection if the tie is not played in Islamabad,” PTF President Saleem Saifullah said.
Meanwhile Qureshi has criticised ITF’s decision. “A really shocking, embarrassing, disgraceful, sad and unfair decision by @ITF_Tennis to hold this @DavisCup tie on a neutral venue. Once again #Pakistan is getting penalised for someone else’s actions. To me it’s an absolute discrimination at every level,” tweeted Qureshi.