New Delhi: India’s Davis Cup captain Mahesh Bhupathi Thursday defended the selection of N Sriram Balaji ahead of higher-ranked Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Purav Raja for the tie against Serbia.
Balaji was included in the side for the September 14-16 away tie as a replacement for Divij Sharan, who pulled out due to a tear in his serving shoulder. Saketh Myneni replaced Yuki Bhambri after Sumit Nagal refused to play the tie citing the Challenger Tour.
Balaji, 28, is now set to play his second tie having made a winning debut against Uzbekistan, last year.
AITA usually picks players on rankings but shunned the policy when it was forced to pick a replacement after both Sharan and Yuki Bhambri pulled out due to injuries.
I wanted a balanced team. We have a lefty in Prajnesh already and I wanted someone who can serve big as well
Mahesh Bhupathi-Davis Cup captain
Balaji is ranked 110th, while the left-handed Nedunchezhiyan and Raja are inside top-100, at 88 and 89 respectively.
“There is no doubles versus singles in Davis Cup. You always factor the opposition, surface, conditions and combinations. If you just go down the ranking as a compliance exercise every time, I don’t think we can achieve the right combination of players to try and win the tie,” Bhupathi added.
AITA selection committee chairman S P Misra said the decision was based purely on the recommendation of the non-playing captain.
“Rohan Bopanna and Balaji had played an excellent match against Uzbekistan in Bangalore, in April 2017. Their combination was good, so on captain’s advice we picked Balaji. Also, there was no time to ask for the availability of other players because only Wednesday morning we got to know about Divij and Yuki’s unavailability,” Misra said.