The All India Tennis Association (AITA) has been forced to name Leander Paes for India’s highly-anticipated Davis Cup tie against Pakistan after Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna refused to travel to Islamabad, citing security concerns. The Asia-Oceania Group-I tie is scheduled for November 29-30.
Ahead of the tie, the AITA forwarded a list of the players and backroom staff that will be sent to the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) for initiating the visa process. The submitted list includes Paes’ name as a player after the 46-year-old made himself available for the tie, which will take place on the grass courts of the Pakistan Sports Complex in Islamabad. Paes’ last appearance was in a Davis tie back in April 2018, after he won the historic doubles match against China.
Others to be named include Saketh Myneni, Arjun Kadhe, Vijay Sundar Prashanth, N Sriram Balaji, Siddharth Rawat and Manish Suresh Kumar. Coach Syed Zeeshan Ali, manager Sunder Narayan Iyer, and physio Anand Kumar have been named as support staff.
Besides Bhupathi, the non-playing captain, and Bopanna, top singles players Ramkumar Ramanathan, Sumit Nagal, and Sasi Kumar Mukund have also expressed their reluctance to travel to Pakistan. Meanwhile, India’s best-ranked singles player, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, is also not available for the tie as he’s getting married on November 29.
“We decided to send the names to the PTF to start the visa formalities as it’s a long process. We will come to know about the final decision from the ITF on November 3 and will select the team after that. Paes has been named as a player because he has made himself available. As for making him the captain, I can’t say anything at this moment,” Chatterjee told TOI.
Meanwhile, the AITA is still waiting on the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to make the final call on November 4 on its request to relocate the fixture to a neutral venue. AITA Secretary General Hironmoy Chatterjee clarified that if the ITF accepts the request, both Bhupathi and Bopanna, along with other singles players, will be drafted back into the players’ list and Paes’ name will be recalled.