| Somdev Dev Varman |
New Delhi: The All India Tennis Association (AITA) on Saturday brought rebel players Somdev Dev Varman, Yuki Bhambri and Sanam Singh back to the Davis Cup squad but ignored doubles specialists Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna for the tie against Indonesia.
The Asia Oceania group relegation play-off tie will be played in Bangalore from April 5 to 7. Shriram Balaji and Vijayant Malik are the two reserves while two promising players — Ramkumar Ramanathan and Arjun Khade – will practise with the Indian team.
Announcing the squad at the national body’s headquarters in the capital, AITA secretary Bharat Oza and chief executive officer Hironmoy Chatterjee said only one doubles player, Leander Paes, was considered for selection.
“Paes is India’s highest ranked doubles player (eighth in the world). So he was selected,” said Oza.
“The other three we have picked up are singles players. An extra singles player has been accommodated as a safeguard against injuries. One of them can play the doubles, too,” he added.
Insiders, however, doubted the idea and felt it was the best way the AITA could have kept out Bhupathi and Bopanna. The selectors, it is believed, were also apprehensive whether the two players, if picked up, would agree to play with Paes.
Bhupathi and Bopanna are ranked 10th and 12th, respectively in doubles.
The AITA once again indicated it would have the final say in selection matters when they retained SP Mishra and Zeeshan Ali as non-playing captain and coach, respectively.
The 11 rebel players, who boycotted the Davis Cup tie against Korea, had been demanding the removal of both Mishra and Zeeshan from their posts.
“There was no discussion on replacing Mishra,” Oza said. “After the Indonesia tie, India’s next Davis Cup assignment is in 2014. We will then see what to be done.”
Mishra, though, has expressed his desire to quit as non-playing captain after the Indonesia tie.
Asked whether a new psychotherapist would be appointed for the Indonesia tie, Oza said the matter would be looked after by Dr Vace Paes, the head of AITA’s sports medicine division. “Some assistants will work under Dr. Paes,” he said.
Chairman of the selection committee Anil Dhupar said the effort was to pick up a young team, which would be able to serve Indian tennis for a longer period. Vishnu Vardhan was not considered as he was nursing an injury.
In the four-member squad, Bhambri is the highest ranked Indian player in singles at 257, followed by Somdev.
The 354th ranked player, who was out of action for a few months because of injury, has beaten world number 38 Benoit Paire of France. Sanam Singh is ranked 297 in singles and 765 in doubles.
Meanwhile, Bhupathi could be present during the Davis Cup tie at his hometown, Bangalore, in April.
Bhupathi has been invited by the AITA to receive the Davis Cup Commitment Trophy, awarded by the International Tennis Federation (ITF).
According to Chatterjee, Bhupathi has confirmed his participation.
Apart from Bhupathi, AITA also expects four other former stars — Ramanathan Krishnan, Ramesh Krishnan, Vijay Amritraj and Anand Amritraj — to be present in Bangalore to receive the Awards.
These former stars missed the felicitation function during the Davis Cup tie against Korea in Delhi. Only Jaidip Mukerjea and Paes were present.