By Debayan Mukherjee
Kolkata, Nov 6 (IANS) Mahesh Bhupathi might refuse to accept that he has been replaced as India’s non-playing captain for the Davis Cup tie against Pakistan, but the All India Tennis Association (AITA) on Wednesday made it clear that the decision to name Rohit Rajpal captain for the game stands.
“There won’t be any change in captaincy as far as the Davis Cup with Pakistan is concerned,” AITA secretary general Hironmoy Chatterjee told IANS.
Chatterjee revealed that Bhupathi’s contract was already over and he was given an extension for the previous tie against Italy in February in Kolkata. “His contract was over in 2018. He made himself unavailable for the Pakistan tie so we replaced him,” Chatterjee said.
The AITA on Monday named Rajpal, a former India player and Chairman of the national tennis federation’s selection panel, as the captain after Bhupathi refused to travel to Pakistan citing security concerns for the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I tie.
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) shifted the game from Islamabad to a neutral venue but that hasn’t seen any change in plan as far as AITA is concerned.
The issue started with Rohan Bopanna tweeting on Tuesday that he was surprised by the national federation’s decision to change the captain before ITF’s decision on the venue for the Pakistan tie and also pointed that the players were not kept in the loop.
“To everyone so concerned for my thoughts and comments. All I know is from a phone call with Mr. Chaterjee (AITA Secretary General Hironmoy Chatterjee) on Monday where I was told that Rohit is replacing me as captain because I wasn’t comfortable going to Pakistan (love the country been there before — not this time),” Bhupathi tweeted on Wednesday.
“I have not heard from the AITA since Monday or after the ITF addressed the players concerns on venue and approved a neutral location — so I am available and believe in am still captain unless I hear otherwise! Glad to “comment” when I know what I know,” he added.
Asked to throw some more light on it, the multiple Grand Slam winner told IANS: “Not commenting till team is announced.”
Bhupathi was named the non-playing captain of India’s Davis Cup squad in December 2016, taking over from Anand Amritraj.
Veteran Leander Paes, Saketh Myneni, Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and N. Sriram Balaji had all made themselves available for selection.
The squad is likely to be announced on November 9 or 10 but with the tie being shifted to a neutral venue, Bopanna is available for selection now. Barring Paes, none of the players mentioned above would be able to make it to the team because of their low ranking compared to Bopanna.
Paes is ranked 96th in the world and Bopanna is placed 39th.
The selection committee ideally goes by rankings while picking the Davis Cup squad, so ignoring Bopanna would be tough if he is willing to play. The tie will be held on November 29 and 30.
The tie was earlier scheduled to be held on September 14-15, but was postponed to November after a security review by the ITF in August. The postponement had come in the wake of pleas from India to shift the tie to a neutral venue or postpone it given the heightened tensions between the two countries.