Mahesh Bhupathi has communicated to the AITA that the players want a neutral venue after escalating political tensions with Pakistan. Several players and officials criticized the federation and the government for refusing to take strong enough measures and putting the player’s security in danger.
India’s Asia Oceania Group 1 Davis Cup tie scheduled to be held in Pakistan next month continues to be in the headlines and in doubt actually taking place. Talks had initially died down after India had confirmed it will be travelling to the neighbouring country to take part in the matches but the recent abrogation of Article 370 has led to a rise in political differences between the two sides.
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) had stated multiple times that it’ll be requesting the International Tennis Federation for a neutral venue to ensure the security of its players. However, general secretary Hironmoy Chatterjee has just asked the world body to re-check the security facilities in Islamabad without seeking for a change in venue. It further stated that the visa formalities will be completed and arrangements for the 14th and 15th September matches will be made once the ITF gives the all-clear. This has prompted non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi to approach the association on behalf of the players.
“We have asked AITA to request for a neutral venue,” said Mahesh Bhupathi.
Only recently, sports minister Kiren Rijiju had said that the government is washing its hands clean off the matter while citing the Olympic charter, considering the tour is part of international competition and not a bilateral series.
“We understand that the Olympic charter does not allow government interference but this is a question of lives of the players. The government always jumps in when Indian citizens are trapped abroad and try to ensure their safe passage back to country. Are tennis players not citizens of India? How can the government risk their lives by not stopping them?” said an official on condition of anonymity told PTI, reported Scroll.in.
The last time the two arch-rivals played on Pakistan’s soil in the tournament was 55 years ago while no sporting contingent from India has visited the country for more than a decade. However, over the past two years, Pakistan has four countries in Davis Cup ties and India will most likely have to forfeit if they decide to abandon the match and not travel to Pakistan.
“It’s beyond understanding why AITA did not ask for change in venue in clear terms? Why are they beating around the bush? Do players mean anything to them,” another official said.
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