ITF shifts Pakistan tie to neutral venue
The International Tennis Federation (ITF) finally saw reason and agreed to shift the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I tie between Pakistan and India, to be held on November 29-30, to a neutral venue.
“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. As per the Davis Cup Regulations, the Pakistan Tennis Federation now has the choice to nominate a neutral venue and has five working days to confirm their proposed venue.”
This has essentially brought to a happy end months of uncertainty regarding the tie, since many of the India players were uncomfortable about travelling to Pakistan — the original venue being Islamabad.
India players, led by captain Mahesh Bhupathi, were worried about their safety.
Anticipating that the ITF may not change its stance, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) had early on Monday appointed its selection panel chairman and former player Rohit Rajpal as the non-playing captain.
AITA secretary general Hironmoy Chatterjee confirmed that the appointment stays and a new team will be picked soon. “The team we had picked did not want to go to Pakistan and most of them had made themselves unavailable. So we will chose a new team now,” he said.
However, Bhupathi told The Telegraph that under the changed scenario, he and other team members (Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Rohan Bopanna, Divij Sharan and Saketh Myneni, with Sasi Kumar Mukund as a reserve) will be willing to travel. “It is great news that ITF has agreed to a neutral venue. Of course I will be with the team,” he said.
Prajnesh and Divij, however, are getting married in November and may not be available. Chatterjee had earlier in the day said that Leander Paes, who has made himself available for the tie, is in the reckoning to be selected as a player.
Will that again bring about the all-too-familiar tussle in Indian tennis between Leander Paes and Bhupathi? That remains to be seen.