New Delhi: The All India Tennis Association (AITA) picked an unprecedented eight-member Davis Cup squad Thursday for the tie against Pakistan. In the process it rewarded players who agreed to travel to Islamabad when top players had refused.
Veteran star Leander Paes returned to the Indian team after more than a year along with top players Sumit Nagal, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Sasi Kumar Mukund and Rohan Bopanna, who had reservations on travelling to Pakistan due to security concerns. Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, Saketh Myneni and Siddharth Rawat also found places in the team. AITA usually names a five-member squad apart from one or two reserve players.
In the absence of top player Prajnesh Gunneswaran, India’s singles challenge will be led by in-form Nagal (ranked 127) and Ramkumar (190). Mukund (250) and Myneni (267) will be back up singles players. For the first time, the squad have three doubles specialists in Rohan Bopanna, Leander Paes and Nedunchezhiyan.
Nagal was not part of the five-member squad, which was announced earlier when the tie was to be held September 14-15. Nagal had cited an injury at that time for opting out.
Divij Sharan and Prajnesh were named in that squad but with tie getting delayed due to security concerns in Islamabad, both of them are now unavailable for personal reasons.
While Sharan will be taking a two-week break after his wedding reception November 23, Prajnesh is getting married November 28, a day before the start of the tie.
Paes, who was available for travel to Pakistan, has not been considered by AITA for selection after he won the history-creating doubles match during the tie against China in April 2018. He had become the most successful doubles player in the history of Davis Cup when he and Bopanna defeated Ze Zhang and Mao-Xin Gong. It was Paes’ 43rd victory, which took him past Italian Nicola Pietrangeli (42).
(The squad): Sumit Nagal, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Sasi Kumar Mukund, Saketh Myneni, Rohan Bopanna, Leander Paes, Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Siddharth Rawat.
(Non-playing captain): Rohit Rajpal, (Coach): Zeeshan Ali.