A day after the India-Pakistan Davis Cup tie this month was finally shifted to a neutral venue, fresh troubles have now descended on the All India Tennis Association (AITA). In a Twitter post on Tuesday, senior Indian doubles player Rohan Bopanna hit out at the federation for its decision to appoint a new captain for the tie without waiting for the International Tennis Federation's (ITF) final verdict on the venue. In its meeting in Chandigarh on Monday, the AITA picked national selection panel chairman Rohit Rajpal as non-playing captain, in place of incumbent Mahesh Bhupathi, for the tie, irrespective of playing venue. Later on Monday, the ITF announced its decision of the tie being moved away from Pakistan.
Terming the AITA's decision to appoint a new captain "shocking", Bopanna wrote in his post that 'none of the players were asked or even informed that the captain was going to be changed'. "Contrary to the incessant beliefs and actions of AITA and their manner of functioning, when it comes to the decisions they make in context to the 'player's best interests'; with my years of experience and representation - I would like for the system to know that a player's best interest is when the players are heard. And in this case, at least informed. When we bring our patriotism on court with raquet (sic) in hand, we also bring a voice," he wrote.
Both Bhupathi and Bopanna had earlier pulled out over security concerns in travelling to Islamabad for the November 29-30 tie. It is understood that the AITA wasn't entirely happy about the captain refusing national duty. In the face of pullouts, Leander Paes made himself available for the tie, expressing his readiness to travel to Pakistan should it stay as the venue. Under the fresh circumstances of the tie not being played in Islamabad anymore, it throws open the field of available players before the selection committee, which is expected to convene at the end of this week to pick a team.
ESPN understands that Paes' willingness to show up for the tie, even if played in Islamabad when most other senior players refused to, may stand him in good stead when the selectors zero down on the playing members. It is understood that the AITA had, in a written communication dated October 25, indicated its intent of not considering players and staff who had pulled out of travelling to Islamabad for the tie, even if the encounter was shifted to a neutral venue. Sticking to this stance, though, would for all practical purposes mean losing out on fielding India's strongest possible team for the tie.
Bopanna is ranked 39th in the world and Paes is placed 96th, but the frosty relations between both make it tricky for AITA to pair them up. The other players who made themselves available for the Islamabad tie - Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (No. 110) and N Sriram Balaji (No. 136) and Saketh Myneni (No. 266 in singles) - may not make the strongest case in terms of rankings, but with doubles specialist Divij Sharan (No. 47) on a post-wedding break, either of these players could be brought in. The AITA is awaiting Pakistan Tennis Federation's decision on the playing venue (for which it has five working days) and depending on the surface, which is likely to be hard courts, it will pick a team before November 10.