India, Pak matches moved to neutral venue

Ross Houston
November 8, 2019

Mahesh Bhupathi is quite peeved over the fact that hours before the International Tennis Federation (ITF) made a decision to shift the venue of the Davis Cup tie between India and Pakistan to a neutral venue, he was stripped off his captaincy.

The All India Tennis Affiliation on Monday named Rohit Rajpal, a former India participant and chairman of the nationwide tennis federation's choice panel, because the non-playing captain after Bhupathi additionally refused to journey to Pakistan citing safety issues for the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I tie.

"With my years of experience and representation, I would like for the system to know that the player's best interest is when the players are heard", Bopanna said in the tweet.

However, late on Monday, the ITF agreed to hold the Asia/Oceania Group I tie at the neutral venue, giving "hosts" Pakistan five days time to chose one. "We have the option of selecting the neutral venue but it is difficult to find grass court venues now and if we have to play on hard courts it will be a big disadvantage to us", he said. However, the decision did not go down well with many players.

Responding to Bopanna's comments, AITA Secretary-General Hironmoy Chatterjee said players' job is to play and not interfere in administrative matters.

"I have not heard from the AITA since Monday or after the ITF addressed the players' concerns on venue and approved a neutral location - so I am available and believe am still Captain unless I hear otherwise! When we bring our patriotism on the court with raquet in hand, we also bring a voice", tweeted Bopanna. "I spoke to him and I feel he is overstepping", mentioned Chatterjee.

The tie might be held on November 29 and 30.

It must be mentioned in this regard that Bhupathi's term as the non-playing captain had already got over in December 2018 and he was given an extension to lead the side in the tie against Italy in February this year in Kolkata.

The ITF said on Monday that it had made a decision to move the tie to a neutral venue following the latest advice from its independent security advisors. "Being a top professional and victor of countless global and national titles, it hurts me and all those, who want to help Pakistan tennis and want players to flourish, but the federation is in no mood to use commonsense", he added.

The belief within Pakistan circles is that the caravan of thousands of angry anti-government demonstrators demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Imran Khan, which hit the streets on October 27 and traveled to Islamabad on November 1, may have forced ITF to change its mind at the last minute and shift the tie out of the capital city. Once again #Pakistan is getting penalised for someone else's actions. Rather Mahesh Bhupathi has refused to accept this decision of AITA and decided his captaincy.

"Pakistan is a safe country, where sporting events are regularly taking place", he told Dawn. "To me it's an absolute discrimination at every level".

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