Divij Sharan’s decision not to travel to China with the Indian Davis Cup team as a reserve has not gone down well with the AITA and the governing body may put up a code of conduct for players. The 32-year old is willing to travel Tianjin for the April 6-7 tie in case his services are required.
Despite Sharan being the second highest-ranked Indian doubles’ after getting promoted to the World ranking of No. 44, the AITA selected Leander Paes ahead of him to partner with Rohan Bopanna, who is currently the top-ranked Indian player at the World ranking of 20. Despite the fact that Paes is one place behind Sharan with the world ranking being 45, his priceless amount of experience prompted the selectors for the away-tie, in which India need a win to be back in contention for the elite World Group.
However, it came out in public that Sharan was not interested in traveling to China just to seat in the reserves and stated that he would only travel if he was assured of a place in the playing squad. While his comments found him some supporters in various groups, in case of a last-minute injury to Paes or Bopanna may put India in a spot of bother as Yuki Bhambri has already pulled out of the tie due to a minor abdomen injury.
Although Sharan has made it clear that if situation demands, he will travel to China and AITA has accepted his request as well, his move has irked the selection committee and the team management, which may force the body to put up a code of conduct clause.
"He has written that he wants to stay back in the US and practice there but would be available to fly to China if required. Perhaps the time has come that players are told clearly what is acceptable and what not. We are contemplating about a players' code of conduct which will be put in place soon,” AITA Secretary General Hironmoy Chatterjee told ToI.
"They have to play Davis Cup just one or two weeks in the entire year. We understand that they have points to defend and earn their livelihood but is it really that tough to sacrifice one week for the country," an AITA source told ToI.
Sharan has been considered as one of the most improved Indian players recently and has maintained his place in the top-50 since November 2017. He has achieved all of this despite breaking up his successful partnership with compatriot Purav Raja. So that might be the reason that he may have felt demoralized that despite being higher-ranked than Paes, he wasn’t picked. However, Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali wasn’t impressed by the move and stated that once a player has made himself available for the tie, he should not back out.
"If a player has been chosen, to be in reserve, he needs to be there because if God forbid, a playing member gets injured and we don't have a reserve what do we do. If something happens to Rohan or Leander before the draw, to get another player from another Continent, and getting used to the partner and the conditions, it's difficult," Zeeshan said.
"Divij, Rohan, and Leander are not regular partners. Doubles has a lot to do with combining and that's why the team assembles five or six days before the tie. If you are not there, doing practice, it puts the captain and coach in a difficult position to call in a new player, a day before the tie."
AITA selection committee chairman SP Misra also seconded Ali's statement and added that the matter would be discussed during the upcoming meeting.
"I feel you should go and practice and get acclimatized to the conditions. It (not traveling) is not advisable. In the next meeting we will have a serious discussion about this," Misra said
“It was a unanimous decision to pick Leander. He was doing well. Irrespective of rankings, Paes is dependable in Davis Cup. He is also near the world record which will be a huge boost to the Indian tennis."
Now, Paes’ record of 42 wins has tied him with the Italian great Nicola Pietrangeli and a victory in the away tie China will see him be the most successful doubles player in the history of Davis Cup.