AITA takes strong stand

The All India Tennis Association (AITA) was forced to select a second string squad yesterday, with Leander Paes being the only old face, for the Davis Cup tie against South Korea after the Somdev Devvarman-led rebel players refused to make themselves available for national duty.

VM Ranjeet, Vijayant Malik and Purav Raja will be making their Davis Cup debut here in the February 1-3 tie. Paes will team up with Raja for the doubles. Ashwin Vijayaraghavan and Arjun Khade are the two reserves. The AITA was forced to pick a completely new squad after the eight rebel players refused to budge despite some additional concessions made by the national body.

Bigger squad
The AITA has agreed to increase the team size to six; select a physiotherapist in consultation with the players and not necessarily from the Sports Authority of India (SAI); and provide business class tickets for four players.

AITA chief executive Hiranmoy Chatterjee said: “We have given then all the time in the world to make themselves available for the tie, but they refused to
budge. In terms of financial compensation, we have accepted all their demands, but they want a coach and captain of their choice. It is not acceptable because a player cannot expect to be a player, coach, selector and administrator at the same time.”

AITA secretary general Bharat Oza said that the rebel players had been told that only the association can decide on captain and coach. SP Misra has been retained as the non-playing captain while Zeeshan Ali was appointed coach. Oza said: “It may not be out of place to mention that for the tie against Korea, the prize money distributable to players, if they win, will be Rs 24 lakhs besides the four main players receiving Rs 14 lakhs in travel expenses.”

More rebels join in
Asked why newly-crowned national champion Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Sriram Balaji were not considered for the tie, selection committee chairman Anil Dhupar said: “We had approached them as well, but they also did not make themselves available for the tie. We think they have also joined the (rebel) group.” 

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