New Delhi: In a big relief for India’s national tennis federation, the world governing body ITF on Monday decided to shift country’s Davis Cup tie against Pakistan from Islamabad to a neutral venue, hours after Rohit Rajpal was named the captain for the upcoming matches.
The November 29-30 contest has already been rescheduled once owing to security concerns raised by India. The tie was scheduled to be held in September but was delayed when India expressed concerns about the safety of their players due to the prevailing diplomatic tensions between the two nations after the revocation of Article 370.
“Following a review of the latest advice given by the ITF’s independent security advisors, the Davis Cup Committee has taken the decision that the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I tie between Pakistan and India on 29-30 November 2019 must be played at a neutral venue,” the ITF said in a statement.
“The ITF and Davis Cup Committee’s first priority has always been the safety of athletes, officials and spectators and the decision was made on this basis,” the statement added.
According to Davis Cup regulations, the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) now has the choice to nominate a neutral venue. It has five working days to confirm its proposed venue. Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) President Salim Saifullah Khan termed the ITF’s decision ‘unfortunate. “It’s politics in sports. It’s nothing but unfortunate,” Khan told PTI.
The hostilities between the two nations heightened after Pakistan opposed India’s move to revoke the special status of Jammu and Kashmir and its bifurcation into union territories. Earlier in the day, the AITA named former India player and chairman of its selection panel Rohit Rajpal as team’s non-playing captain, signalling an end to Mahesh Bhupathi’s era. There was speculation that veteran Leander Paes could be considered for the job after the 46-year-old made himself available following pullouts by top players and captain Bhupathi.
The AITA made the decision at its Executive Committee meeting, which was followed by the Annual General Meeting in Chandigarh. AITA President Parveen Mahajan said the federation will not go back on its decision to make Rajpal captain.
“Rohit will stay as captain of the side. He will talk to the top players if they are available. We were ready to send team Pakistan too but it’s an excellent decision. We welcome it,” Mahajan told PTI. AITA sources added that Bhupathi, whose term had ended in December 2018, may not be considered for the job, for he refused national duty. Bhupathi had taken over from Anand Amritraj in December 2016.
“The refusal of Bhupathi to travel to Pakistan has not gone down well with the AITA. I don’t think he will be considered for the captain’s job in future. It’s over for him. The AITA wants to continue with the tradition of non-playing captain, so Leander will definitely be considered once he hangs up his boots,” said an official, who was part of the meeting.
Rajpal made his Davis Cup debut in 1990 against Korea in Seoul, where India suffered a 0-5 whitewash. It is the second big responsibility AITA has handed to the 48-year-old Rajpal, who was made the chairman of a five-man selection panel in November last year. Rajpal is also the president of the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association. “It’s a huge responsibility and I am thankful to AITA for choosing me for such an important tie. The onus is on ITF and Pakistan government to ensure Indian contingent’s security,” Rajpal told PTI. “I am going to approach all the players who have made themselves unavailable and request them to reconsider their decision,” he added.