Leander Paes, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Rohan Bopanna were all included in the squad as the All India Tennis Association (AITA) named an unconventional, eight-member team for the Davis Cup tie against Pakistan following its selection committee meeting in New Delhi on Thursday. Much of it has to do with rewarding players who had agreed to play the tie in Islamabad when the overriding majority of top players had pulled out. Of the eight members named, four players had earlier cited themselves as unavailable for travel to Pakistan while the four others had expressed their willingness to fill in for them.
Ramkumar and Sumit Nagal will lead India's singles charge while two doubles specialists, Paes and Bopanna were named for the Asia/Oceania Group I tie scheduled for November 29 & 30. The venue still remains undecided.
Three reserve players - Siddharth Rawat, Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Sasikumar Mukund - have been named for the tie. Explaining their decision for an unusually large team, an AITA official said, "We couldn't ignore the players who had made themselves available to travel to Islamabad when everyone else had pulled out. Since the venue and surface is still unknown we thought it made good sense to have three reserves players."
Ramkumar, Nagal, Mukund and Bopanna, who had withdrawn from the tie in Islamabad, had confirmed their availability once it was shifted out of Pakistan. Paes, on the other hand, slipped into AITA's plans after he expressed his readiness to travel to Islamabad after most of the other top players withdrew. Saketh Myneni, Jeevan, and Rawat who feature in this team alongside Paes, had also been willing to play in Pakistan.
On November 4, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) had announced its decision to shift the tie to a neutral venue and handed the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF), by virtue of holding the 'Choice of Ground', five working days to propose an alternate venue outside the country. The rationale that the world body offered for the call was safety of players, athletes and officials and it had followed advice given by ITF's independent security advisors.
PTF, however, has appealed to the ITF against it and an independent tribunal of the world body is expected to deliberate upon it and offer a final decision by November 18. PTF has cited the recent opening up of the historic Kartarpur corridor and the first batch of Indian Sikh pilgrims traveling to Pakistan over the weekend through the cross-border pathway, to add heft to their security assurance claims before the ITF. The world body on its part had sought AITA's views on the appeal to which the latter is understood to have stayed their ground in demanding a shift of venue.
PTF was originally scheduled to host India on September 14 & 15 on the grass courts of the Pakistan Sports Complex, Islamabad where ties against Uzbekistan, Korea and Thailand have taken place in 2017 and 2018.
Team: Ramkumar Ramanathan, Sumit Nagal, Saketh Myneni, Leander Paes, Rohan Bopanna. Reserves: Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, Sasi Kumar Mukund and Siddharth Rawat