Rebels won't play for India in Davis Cup

Rebels won't play for India in Davis Cup

Rebels won't play for India in Davis Cup

Putting self before the nation, eight revolting tennis players refused to make themselves available for selection on Friday, forcing India to field a depleted side for the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group I home tie against South Korea here next month.

Left with no choice, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) named the squad from the available pool even as the rebel group also roped in current national hardcourt champion Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, Sriram Balaji and Vijay Sundar Prashant in their fight against the federation despite the parent body making further concessions to their demands late on Thursday night.

As a result, V M Ranjeet (ranked 517 on the ATP list), Vijayant Malik (542) and Purav Raja (916) will be making their Davis Cup debut in the February 1-3 tie.

Leander Paes will be the only experienced player in the team and is likely to be paired with Raja for the doubles. Ashwin Vijayaraghavan and Arjun Khade are the two reserve players.

The revolting players, led by Somdev Devvarman, have said they have the future of the game in the country on their minds but their stance has left many fans, experts and former players angry at the whole scenario. “The boycott lost its meaning when players overstepped boundaries. As the AITA had agreed to 90 per cent of the players’ demands, they could have come on board and sorted out the remaining ones,” Vishaal Uppal, a former Davis Cupper, told Deccan Herald. “It is a sad day for Indian tennis. Hope better sense will prevail and players will realise that there is no bigger honour than representing one’s country.”

The 12-day drama marks one of the most unsavoury episodes in Indian tennis and came within six months of the Olympic controversy that left behind bitter memories.

At that time, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna had refused to pair with Paes, leading to a period of protracted negotiations that left the country the loser at the Games.

Uppal felt the entire issue reeked of politics. “Somdev started a novel project but it was hijacked by the people with vested interests. The whole thing reeks of politics and nothing to do with legitimate demands.”

Former India Davis Cup captain Jaideep Mukherjea concurred. “I believe that AITA has conceded to most of the demands of the players.  I feel they could have played,” he said.
Meanwhile, the revolting players, including Somdev, Bopanna, Bhupathi, Yuki Bhambri, Vishnu Vardhan, Sanam Singh, Divij Sharan and Saketh Myneni, issued a joint statement expressing their disappointment in AITA’s decision to go ahead with an “inexperienced” side.

“The AITA's position reiterates and reaffirms our stand, and we are constrained to state that we will be unavailable to represent the country until such time that the AITA engages with us in good faith,” it stated.