New Delhi: The national tennis federation Monday maintained that security concerns remain in Pakistan after the world governing body ITF sought a fresh response from India following Pakistan’s appeal against shifting of the Davis Cup tie to a neutral venue.
The cloud of uncertainty continued to hover over the venue for the November 29-30 tie, which was shifted out of Islamabad by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) on security grounds.
The ITF had taken the decision November 4, paying heed to All India Tennis Federation’s repeated requests for a neutral venue, which prompted the Pakistan Tennis Federation to challenge the move. In response, the ITF reached out to AITA Monday.
An independent tribunal of the ITF will now deliberate upon the appeal and make a final decision by November 18. “The ITF has sought our response on Pakistan’s appeal. Our stand has not changed. We still feel that security concerns remain in Pakistan for our players and neutral venue is a better option. We will convey this to the ITF Tuesday. ITF will let us know a final decision by November 18,” AITA secretary Hironmoy Chatterjee said.
The PTF believes that the peaceful opening of the Kartarpur corridor Saturday is a clear indicator that it is safe to host the Indian tennis team in Islamabad despite diplomatic tensions between the two nations.
PTF President Salim Saifullah Khan has said they will explore other options in case the ITF rejects their appeal. “We may tell the ITF that we’ll not nominate the neutral venue. We’ll request it to ask AITA to choose where its outfit wants to play,” Saifullah said.
If the ITF decision comes November 18, the AITA will face practical difficulties in making travel arrangements, including procuring visas, within four days.
AITA would like to send its players at least five days before the tie to acclimatise to the conditions which means the selected ones must reach the venue by November 25.
The development further delays the selection of the Indian squad since confusion remains as to who will play the tie. The top players who had refused to travel to Pakistan, made themselves available for selection after the tie was moved to a neutral venue.
If the ITF takes the tie back to Islamabad, top players such as Ramkumar Ramanathan, Sumit Nagal, Sasi Mukund and Rohan Bopanna may again pull out.
The second-string players who were ready to play in Pakistan still don’t know if they will be picked if the tie is played at a neutral venue.
Bopanna, who had lashed out at AITA for removing Mahesh Bhupathi as captain without consulting the players, has confirmed his availability after some convincing from new captain Rohit Rajpal.
“Rajpal has urged the players to put nation first, leaving behind the bitterness of the past. Bopanna has sent his availability by mail. He would not have any issue if he is paired with Paes, if the tie is played on neutral venue,” said an AITA source.
“Sasi Mukund has also sent confirmatory mail to the federation,” added the source.
Ramkumar and Nagal had earlier confirmed their availability for the tie, having pulled out of the matches initially due to security concerns in Pakistan.