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Fresh team selection if Davis Cup vs Pakistan tie removed to neutral venue: AITA

Sayan Mukherjee

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The AITA seeks to extend an olive branch to disgruntled heavyweights. Photo: @Twitter

New Delhi: Indian tennis federation is ready to consider players who were unwilling to travel to Pakistan for selection should the Asia-Oceania Group I Davis Cup tie be moved to a neutral venue.

The team’s composition would depend on selection of the neutral venue by Pakistan and also the surface on which the tie would be played.

This stance is taken keeping in mind the best interests of Indian tennis as should they win they will advance to the world group, new non-playing captain Rohit Rajpal said on Wednesday.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) had scheduled the tie, to be played in Islamabad, on November 29-30. But ITF’s communication to Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) to shift the tie to a neutral venue has “surprised” AITA, who hours earlier had appointed Rajpal to replace Bhupathi.

“There will be a fresh process of selection. But all those who readily made themselves available would be given due importance,” Rajpal said.

Had the tie been played in Islamabad, as was scheduled, the players, led by Rohan Bopanna and non- playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi, who withdrew citing security concerns wouldn’t have been considered.

AITA CEO Akhouri Bishwadeep though stated that Rajpal would remain India’s non-playing captain for the tie despite Bhupathi’s willingness to carry on in the role at a neutral venue.

The new team would be announced within “a day or two” of Pakistan choosing their neutral venue. PTF has appealed to the ITF not to take the tie out of Islamabad.

Bhupathi and Bopanna have ranted on social media about the autocratic manner in which AITA has handled the whole issue.

But Bishwadeep disclosed the entire correspondence between AITA, the ITF, Bhupathi and individual players to prove they have acted transparently, keeping everyone in the loop regarding all developments.

“For the last few months an unflattering perception of AITA is being created. But we have utmost regard for Bhupathi. The last few months have not been easy due to multiple uncertainties,” Bishwadeep said.

That the ITF wants the venue to be changed is in itself a “victory of AITA’s soft diplomacy and quiet persistence” as the ITF never gave an impression of changing the venue in the “last three months”.

Bishwadeep added that Bhupathi had even suggested India should accept loser’s spot if the tie wasn’t shifted.

“We decided on October 15 that India will not forfeit the tie nor take the loser’s spot and would play in Pakistan.”

It was then that Leander Paes came in the fray. He and Anand Amritraj were considered for captaincy but it wasn’t deemed feasible and only then Rajpal was asked to take over as captain, Bishwadeep said.

Rajpal clarified that Bhupathi might still return as captain but it would be for the executive committee to decide.

“Never say never. If Mahesh is required in future why not have him. Everything is open, he can make more contribution in other capacities,” he said.

Rajpal also wished that this public mudslinging between heavyweights targeting AITA would stop and everything would be sorted out in a more civil manner, pointing out that the national body should be more strict regarding conduct of players.

“The entire episode does show AITA in poor light. All stakeholders should sit together rather than quarrel.”

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Sayan Mukherjee is the Content Head at Sports Lounge. He has over 10 years of experience in sports journalism (print and digital) having worked for some of the leading media organisations in the country including The Statesman, The Asian Age, IANS and Sports Illustrated.