NEW DELHI: After both Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna attacked All India Tennis Association (AITA) regarding the former’s removal as captain for the Davis Cup tie against Pakistan, AITA cleared the air while reiterating that players should avoid washing dirty laundry in public and instead find a solution through dialogue.
AITA CEO Akhouri Bishwadeep revealed that the Indian body had no clue that the International Tennis Federation (ITF) would change the venue despite their persistent efforts over three months. ITF had been asking AITA to apply for visas and to send the names of the players. This is why, after Bhupathi refused to travel to Islamabad, they plumped for Rohit Rajpal. The timing could not have been worse as just hours later, ITF changed the venue for the November 29-30 tie to a neutral one.
“First, nobody is aware of the behind-the-scenes work done by AITA to shift the tie out of Pakistan. We have been in constant touch with them, apprising them of security threats. The decision was the victory of soft diplomacy and quiet persistence of AITA.
“After learning of Bhupathi’s decision, we tried to find the best possible non-playing captain. Hence, Leander Paes was not burdened with two roles. Anand Amritraj was approached but he wanted a two-year term. Rohit said yes without any conditions and he was the best choice,” Bishwadeep informed.
Bhupathi and the rest have always maintained that if the tie happens at a neutral venue, they would be available for selection. The CEO also added that in the emergent meeting held on October 15, Bhupathi had suggested India should take the loser’s spot if ITF does not agree to shift the tie. “We decided India will not forfeit the tie. We will field the strongest possible team. Bhupathi himself gave seven names of players who were willing to travel to Pakistan.”
Those included Saketh Myneni, Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, Arjun Kadhe, Vijay Sundar Prashanth, Manish Sureshkumar and Sidharth Rawat. Rohit approached Paes who agreed immediately.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) has appealed to ITF with players unhappy with the change. PTF have till November 9 to decide on a neutral venue and the surface. All this will decide India’s selection procedure. “If the tie happens at a neutral place, everybody will be taken into consideration for selection but we will not forget those who raised their hands when called upon,” Rohit said.
With regards to Bhupathi coming back as captain, Rohit said, “Never say never. You never know, in the future, if India requires Bhupathi’s services, he may be brought back.” It was confirmed by AITA that Rohit will remain captain for the Pakistan tie.
The non-playing captain also added that this trend of venting frustration over social media was hurting the game. “I appeal to all stakeholders and players to come together and speak as one voice and defeat the enemy which is not within but outside. Kids are watching this and icons like Bhupathi and Rohan should come and speak to us and sort out the issue.”