Ministry passes the buck to AITA

Khanna stands by selectors decision, says Paes must be paired with the best

Ministry passes the buck to AITA

 The All India Tennis Association president Anil Khanna stuck to the stand of the selection committe, saying it will be meaningless for Leander Paes to partner a junior player, after Sports Ministry on Tuesday threw the ball in the federation’s court to pick the best team for the Olympics.

Sports Minister Ajay Maken on Monday had sought an explanation from AITA by Tuesday afternoon over their selection of Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi for the Olympics and why only one team was being sent for the London Games.
The Ministry's stance will come as a jolt to Bhupathi who had  written to Maken detailing his woes of not being allowed to partner with Rohan Bopanna despite the two making the cut for the Olympics as a team.

However, Maken on Tuesday made it clear that the ministry will not be involved in the selection process.

"The sports ministry doesn't wish to be a part of the selection process. We had raised certain issues because of request from certain iconic players. The sports ministry leaves it to the AITA to exercise any of the options in the best of national interest," Maken said.

Following the ministry’s intervention, AITA had formulated a four-page explanation of their decision to pick to the warring Paes and Bhupathi.

The AITA, in the reply,  listed five options to the Ministry to come out with a best option. One,  Paes should play with Bhupathi.  Second,  Bopanna should play with Paes. Third, Paes is asked to play with a player ranked 207 or 306 in the world, and Bhupathi and Bopanna are asked to play together, adding  “this means two Indian pairs can participate but not necessarily the best teams.”

Fourth, Bhupathi and Bopanna asked to play together and Paes decides not to participate in the Olympics. And fifth, Paes participates in Olympics with a junior partner and Bhupathi and Bopanna not entered in Olympics due to disciplinary reasons.

The AITA also blasted Bhupathi and Bopanna, saying "it should be understood that two players cannot make a pact with each other to keep the number one player out and publicly suggest in media that No. 1 player should go to Olympics with No. 5."
The federation said it would not be fair on Paes to be forced to play with either Yuki Bhambri (ranked 306) or Vishnu Vardhan (207) since Somdev Devvarman was injured.
"It would be meaningless to send Leander with a junior player who has not played Grand Slam. Leander being the best player must be paired with either Bopanna or Bhupathi."

Khanna along with AITA secretary-general Bharat Oza, selector Rohit Rajpal and AITA’s executive director Amarbir Singh met Sports Ministry Joint Secretary Rahul Bhatngar in the afternoon to discuss the tennis body's reply.

In the meeting that lasted two hours, the two parties discussed the five options of AITA, the letter from Leander Paes and the wildcard probability of Sania Mirza. Khanna, though, continued to insist on the decision of the selection committee and said they needed to take "Paes’ sentiments into consideration”.
The last date to send the entries to ITF is on Thursday.

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