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Players issue boycott threat

New Delhi: Indian tennis has been reduced to revolts of late. Friday added another chapter to that episode when a group of eight players threatened to pull out of the Davis Cup rubber against South Korea next month if they were required to sign a code of conduct agreement with the All India Tennis Association (AITA).

The eight players, which include veteran doubles specialist Mahesh Bhupathi and singles player Somdev Dev Varman, said in a joint statement that they were united in their stand against certain practices, even though they were “not looking to challenge the authority of the AITA.”

Their statement came two days after the AITA general secretary said all players, who are willing to play for the country, would have to sign a code of conduct, which would restrict them from taking every issue to the media.

Interestingly, Bhupathi was in the thick of things when he led a rebellion against the AITA on the eve of London Olympics last year. At that time, he and Rohan Bopanna refused to partner Leander Paes in the doubles and practically forced the national body to send them as a separate team.

The others to sign the statement were Vishnu Vardhan, Sanam Singh, Rohan Bopanna, Yuki Bhambri, Divji Sharan and Saketh Myneni. Paes was the only major player to stay away from it.

“Unfortunately, in light of the AITA secretary general Mr. Bharat Oza’s statement that the AITA will introduce a disciplinary code for players... we wish to make it very clear that all of us are, regrettably, unavailable for Davis Cup selection unless the AITA is willing to consider and engage with us on our very legitimate suggestions in relation to the team,” the players said in the statement.

Their demands include removal of the non-playing captain SP Mishra, more input into choosing venues, more professional team management, an increase in their share of the prize money and an enlarged team of six players to ensure adequate practice partners and exposure to more players.

For the record, Mishra, in a letter to the AITA, has already expressed his willingness to resign.

AITA tried to play down the incident and claimed that the stand taken by the players was the result of an “unfortunate misunderstanding.” It, however, maintained the players would have to sign the code of conduct.

“Everything would be sorted out in the next couple of days,” said AITA chief executive officer Hironmoy Chatterjee. “What we said was about updating the code that already exists from 1994.

“We wanted to add a few clauses to it, like no player would be allowed to speak to the media 10 days before and after the tie was over.”

A section in the AITA is even blaming Oza for messing up the entire issue. “It was a simple matter, which was complicated by the general secretary with a statement that enraged the players,” said a senior official.

But all said and done, the players have once again showed that they had no respect for the national body. It was no different on Friday.