Indian tennis legend Mahesh Bhupathi was named the new non-playing captain of the Davis Cup team and will take charge after the Asia/Oceania zone group I home tie against New Zealand in Pune from 3 to 5 February, 2017.
The tie against New Zealand will be Anand Amritraj’s last tie as non-playing captain as AITA wants to give him a “farewell”.
In other development, former US Open finalist and two- time Olympian Bopanna was left out of Davis Cup squad for the tie against New Zealand.
The AITA selection committee comprising S P Misra, Rohit Rajpal, Nandan Bal, Zeeshan Ali and secretary Hiranmoy Chatterjee decided that Leander Paes and Saketh Myneni will be the preferred choice for their good show against Rafael Nadal and Marc Lopez in the previous Davis Cup tie against Spain.
While Bopanna’s world ranking is 28, Paes is currently 59 and Myneni is 210 in the ATP doubles ranking list.
“Picking Rohan blocks a place for a third singles player that we wanted to have in the squad. Also Leander and Saketh were brilliant against Spain. But whenever Leander and Rohan have played together, they have not done well. Take Czech Republic tie as an example,” national selector Misra told reporters.
“The other factor being Rohan being an ad court player. Even Saketh is an ad court player while Leander prefers deuce court (right side of the court). If we pick Rohan and Saketh, then we have two ad court players. Even Rohan and Saketh have not done well as a pair,” Misra said.
He, however, informed that Rohan had informed the committee that he is available for this tie.
“Look we don’t know how long Leander (43 years) will be playing. Rohan (36 years) is much younger and he can always make a comeback.”
Asked about Somdev Devvarman, Misra said that he has not been playing any tournament for a long time.
“He has not played any tournament for a long time. First he has to make a comeback to the competitive tennis and then deliver results,” he said.
India’s squad for New Zealand tie will witness Yuki Bhambri’s comeback with Myneni and Ramkumar Ramanathan being the other two.
Yuki’s comeback means that Sumit Nagal has also been axed from the squad. The fifth player in the squad is left handed Prajnesh Gunneswaran, who comes in very handy during practice with his booming serves.
Two youngsters Adil Kalyanpur and Nitin Kumar Sinha will get valuable exposure practising with the squad.
Meanwhile, multiple Grand Slam winner Bhupathi was the hot favourite the moment AITA decided to replace Amritraj.
“Everybody should get a chance to be captain. No post stays with one person forever. I personally spoke to Mahesh and asked if he is available, he said ‘Yes’. That was it. Also we wanted Anand to be given a farewell tie,” AITA Secretary General Hiranmoy Chatterjee told media.
Asked if Amritraj is happy with the decision, Chatterjee tersely replied: “No one wants to go. But everyone deserves a chance to be the captain.”
Asked if players were taken into confidence since they had rallied around Amritraj, Chatterjee replied: “It’s not their prerogative. We don’t need to consult the players. Even Leander Paes was not consulted.”
Asked about the history of strained relationship between Leander and Mahesh and whether the latter’s elevation would prove to be end of the road for the former, Chatterjee said: “We will cross that bridge when it comes.”
On whether Amritraj giving leeway to players as far as discipline is concerned was an issue alongwith his views in media, the AITA top official did not deny.
“When a committee meets, we discuss a lot of things. But let me tell you that we did not receive any letter of support from the players,” he asserted.
Chatterjee also said that there was no communication with either Somdev Devvarman or Ramesh Krishnan regarding coach and non-playing captain’s role.
Chatterjee also said that Bhupathi has not demanded any special favours.
“He has not demanded anything and simply said yes to the job. As far as remuneration is concerned he will be paid as per our Davis Cup payment slab,” he said.