NEW DELHI: The plummeting temperature in Nur-Sultan, the venue of India’s Davis Cup tie against Pakistan, and their opposition’s tactics are keeping Rohit Rajpal, India’s non-playing captain, awake at night.
The minimum temperature in Nur-Sultan on Saturday was -19 degrees, a difference of more than forty compared to Delhi, where the squad is training currently. The extreme conditions there will pose the biggest challenge for the Indians. The contingent even went for thermal-wear shopping to prepare for their trip to Kazakhstan on Sunday.
“Even though it is indoors, weather will be one of the biggest obstacles,” said Rajpal. “The boys will also need to get used to the altitude. In that extreme cold, you don’t even realise when you have tweaked a muscle. You feel the effects much later. You need to keep your blood flowing at all times, which entails lot of stretching, and proper warm-up and cool-down exercises. We are even taking two physiotherapists — Anand and Yash — for this trip.”
The former Davis Cupper has the experience of playing in such conditions, and he’s been sharing his thoughts with the younger members.
With the tie getting shifted out of Islamabad, senior Pakistan players like Aisam-ul-Haq and Aqeel Khan protested against the International Tennis Federation (ITF) decision and pulled out of the encounter.
Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) was forced to pick two rookie 17-year-olds: Huzaifa Abdul Rehman and Shoaib Khan. But India have not changed their approach to preparation.
“It does not matter whom they pick. We are getting ready to play our best and ensure a victory. But till the 28th, anything with regards to team selection is possible. They might be trying to throw us off. We still believe Aisam and Aqeel might turn up.”
The 48-year-old has been appointed captain only for this tie, after Mahesh Bhupathi stepped down saying that he was not comfortable playing in Pakistan. But Rajpal says each individual’s choice needs to be respected.
“AITA (All India Tennis Association) was in a tight spot. I can understand why the others decided against travelling. But as soon as I got the call, there was no hesitation whatsoever. Winning is my main priority.”
Leander Paes is making a comeback after almost a year, and he was seen playing with Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Saketh Myneni. Rajpal thanked the veteran for agreeing without any conditions.
“We have grown up together. I know the kind of guy he is. His elite mentality is what makes him stands out. In terms of pairing, we will decide later about whether to go for a left-right combination or a baseline-net pair. It is always good to have options.”
Sasi not travelling
Sasi Kumar Mukund pulled out due to a foot injury, on Saturday. Named as a reserve member in the team, he suffered the injury during a tournament in Portugal.