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Time for a new team?

New Delhi: Threatened by players’ revolt ahead of the Davis Cup rubber against South Korea, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) is believed to have finalised a plan to raise a completely new team, with experienced campaigner Leander Paes at the forefront.

A senior AITA official, who refused to be named, said on Tuesday: “There could be a totally new team, including Leander, who has already made himself available.”

Apart from Paes, a few other players have informed their availability, but the AITA was not ready to part with the names.

“The moment we spell out the names, these eight players will be after them to withdraw. So, let’s wait till January 11, when the selection committee meets, to pick the team,” he said.

The AITA official also said that out of the eight revolting players, five might not get the nod of the selectors even if they change their mind and opt to play for India. Eight top players, including Somdev Dev Varman, Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna and Yuki Bhambri have threatened to pull out of the Davis Cup tie unless the AITA meets all the demands raised by them.

While the AITA made some concessions, the players pressed for removal of SP Mishra as the captain with immediate effect.

The players had also said they were in no position to accept former player Zeeshan Ali as the new coach. Ironically, Zeeshan is a member of the AITA selection committee.

Several people in the AITA feel that though Somdev is currently leading the players’ revolt against the national body, the entire thing could be planned by Bhupathi and Bopanna, who had fought a bitter battle with the AITA over selection of the doubles team for London Olympics.

“Succumbing to outside pressure before London Olympics was a mistake,” said an official. “They have now tested blood and are putting more pressure on AITA.”

As a counter attack, the AITA is now planning to deny the revolting players financial grants from the government. The national tennis body has proposed Rs 15 lakh each for players featuring in top-200 in singles and Rs 12 lakh for those who get into the 201-300 bracket through the Long term Development Plan (LTDP) of the government.

“We are not going to beg for the funds for players who are not interested in doing national duty. They have brought the game to disrepute, though we had addressed their concerns honestly,” AITA CEO Hironmoy Chatterjee said.