'Mahesh's commitment to tennis is unquestionable'

Former India Davis Cup captain Jaideep Mukherjea has slammed suggestions from the All India Tennis Association (AITA) that Mahesh Bhupathi is behind the ongoing revolt in Indian tennis. “I’ve known Mahesh personally, and I can assure you that he will never do such a thing,” Mukherjea told MiD DAY yesterday.

On December 17, eight tennis players — Somdev Devvarman, Rohan Bopanna, Yuki Bhambri, Vishnu Vardhan, Sanam Singh, Divij Sharan, Saketh Myneni and Bhupathi wrote to the AITA asking for, among other things, (i) a change in the way Davis Cup prize money is distributed, (ii) a change in support staff, (iii) a change in venues for home ties.

Mahesh Bhupathi. Pic/Getty Images

The AITA, on its part, responded positively to some of the suggestions.

However, the players want all their demands fulfilled if the AITA wishes to consider them for selection for the February 1-3 Davis Cup tie against South Korea in Delhi.

AITA CEO Hiranmoy Chatterjee has blamed Bhupathi of having an “ulterior motive to destroy the career of youngsters to suit his purpose.”

Mukherjea continued: “Let’s not discount what Mahesh has done for Indian tennis. He’s brought a lot of accolades to the country and his commitment to the game is unquestionable.

“I know Hiranmoy well too as he’s from Kolkata. He may be a good administrator but I don’t think he should be saying such things about someone like Mahesh.”

‘Players wrong on Ali’
Mukherjea further felt that the players were right in asking for a change in captain and team doctor but should not have turned down Zeeshan Ali, whom AITA have roped in as coach in place of Nandan Bal.

“I believe everyone has a shelf life and so the players may be right in asking for replacements for veterans like SP Misra (non-playing captain) and Vece Paes (team doctor).

“However, Zeeshan is a multiple-time national champion and is a good appointment as coach. The players are asking for Yuki’s coach Aditya Sachdeva but when it comes to playing credentials, there is simply no comparison between Sachdeva and Zeeshan,” said Mukherjea.

‘Not a big difference’
The deadline for the eight players to make themselves available for selection ends today. However, former Indian tennis selection committee chief Mukherjea said that even if the current lot does not play, it won’t make much of a difference.

“Besides Mahesh and of course Somdev, none of the other players have much experience and are way off in the rankings. Currently, Somdev is coming off injury, so he’s way down in the rankings too. (In singles, Yuki is ranked 237, Sanam is 293rd, Vishnu 344th & Myneni is 385th in the world).

“I feel Somdev & Co should play the Davis Cup tie. But, if they don’t, it won’t make much of a difference because the next set of players that AITA brings in — Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (423), N Sriram Balaji (324), Ranjeet Virali-Murugesan (517) and Vijayant Malik (542) — will not be too far away from the current players’ rankings anyway,” he said. 

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