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Pakistan ask 'unreasonable' ITF to suggest neutral venue guidelines

Pakistan's Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images

The Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) has served a fresh lob in the unceasing Davis Cup saga involving India, writing to the International Tennis Federation and asking them to suggest guidelines for a neutral venue for the Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie, scheduled for November 29 and 30.

On Monday, the ITF had made a decision to shift the India-Pakistan matches out of Islamabad and handed the Pakistan federation five working days to propose a neutral venue.

ESPN understands that in its email communication to the PTF, the ITF had directed the national federation to not only come up with a neutral venue but has also made it clear that given the fragile relations between the two countries, it will consider the security risk of a chosen venue at a notch higher than its existing listing.

The latter stipulation is believed to have left the PTF confounded.

"It is unreasonable and unfair," a source privy to the developments told ESPN. "If the ITF plans, for instance, to treat a medium-risk country as a high-risk one and so forth, how are we going to pick a suitable venue? As a means of protest the PTF has written to ITF asking the international body to suggest guidelines for a venue they deem fit."

According to the Davis Cup regulations, 30.2.5.1, 'the nation with the choice of ground will be considered the home nation for the purposes of the conduct and financial arrangements of the tie'. This also extends to planning and extending a comprehensive security plan and liaising with any governmental and quasi-governmental authorities, and law enforcement agencies concerning the safety and security for the tie.

PTF is also finding the financial burden that comes with hosting a tie at a foreign venue crushing. Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam are the cost-effective choices for the Pakistani federation. Pakistan's top players, too, have been open in expressing their displeasure over the recent turn of events.

Speaking to ESPN, one of Pakistan's tallest names in the sport, Aisam ul Haq Quereshi said, "It's sad and disappointing that ITF decided to shift the tie out of Islamabad. It's unfair and absolutely discriminatory towards us and we have no choice but to appeal against it to the ITF."

Responding to PTF's protest, All India Tennis Association (AITA) secretary Hiranmoy Chatterjee said, "They are free to appeal. But we all know there's hardly any time left for the tie."

The belief within Pakistan circles is that the caravan of thousands of angry anti-government demonstrators demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, which hit the streets on October 27 and traveled to Islamabad on November 1, may have forced ITF to change its mind at the last minute and shift the tie out of the capital city.

The international body's decision was indeed a surprising one given that in the weeks leading up to the tie, there was no indication of a change of venue being considered. In fact, it is understood that the ITF had even asked the Indian federation to begin visa procedures for the staff and players traveling to Pakistan. The AITA responded by directing all members who had made themselves available for the tie to apply for their visas via a written communication on October 15. .

However, in the current scenario, with just 21 days left for the tie, the PTF knows it could well end up being on the losing side of both appeal and time.