Rebel tennis players approach Sports Ministry over AITA stand-off

by FP Sports  Jan 17, 2013 17:29 IST

#AITA   #Mahesh Bhupathi   #NewsTracker   #Somdev Devvarman   #Tennis  

In a desperate attempt to get back to the Indian Davis Cup team, the 11 rebel players have sought intervention of Sports Ministry to resolve the crisis but their effort is unlikely to bear any fruit with the ministry categorically stating that it has "no role to play in selection matters".

AITA was forced to pick an inexperienced side, which has only one top player in Leander Paes, to take on South Korea after the revolting players did not make themselves available by the stipulated deadline of January 11. Even the AITA Vice President Karti Chidambaram, who is said to be at loggerheads with the AITA top brass, has also written to the Ministry, saying that the national federation selected the team well before the ITF deadline and could have resolved the issue in that period. The last date to submit the squad is January 22.

AITA accommodated many demands of players, including change in support staff and an increased share in prize money and later added three more concessions. Since the latest concessions, made on January 10, were not communicated to the players in writing, the rebels continued to remain unavailable. However they later said that if they had got those offers in writing, they could have reconsidered their stand.

Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna. AFP

"We have written to the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, requesting the Hon'ble Minister's intervention into the stance adopted by the AITA, as well as an enquiry into the actions of the AITA over the past few weeks," a joint statement by the players said.

"We believe that the AITA should divulge its reasoning behind the decision to field an inexperienced team at the crucial Davis Cup Group I fixture to be held in February against South Korea. We are hopeful of a beneficial and amicable outcome that would substantially change, for the better, the system of sports administration in India," the statement added.

However, Sports Secretary P K Deb said they cannot enter a territory which does not belong to them. "We have no role to play in selection matters. Selection of the team is entirely the right of the All Indian Tennis Association. All we can do is just talk informally but it is up to AITA to select the team," Deb told PTI.

Karti Chidambaram, who is also Vice President of the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA), in his letter to Ministry, said they had been constantly advising AITA to postpone the 11th January meeting as it had time until January 22 to announce the team. "We at TNTA felt that the additional time available could
be used to get the players around to a settlement. Instead AITA went ahead and selected a third string team for the Korean tie. I feel this hasty action by AITA has now ensured a certain defeat for India in the Tie against Korea.

"... I leave it to you to intervene once again & ensure a strong Indian contingent plays the Korean Tie. We have only a few days to take corrective action and would appreciate your urgent action in this matter," the letter said.

Meanwhile, AITA stood firm on its stand and said the rebel players will be considered for selection only after the Korea tie, if they will make themselves available again. "The ministry assured us that they will not interfere in the selection matter," AITA CEO Hirnmoy Chatterjee told PTI.

"The chapter for the Korea tie is closed for us. If these players make themselves available for the next (April) tie, we will consider them on the basis of merit. We will not be vindictive," Chatterjee added.

PTI