In recent developments All India Tennis Association’s (AITA) has requested the International Tennis Federation (ITF) to move the tie in the Asia-Oceania group of the Davis Cup from Islamabad to a neutral venue. India is scheduled to face Pakistan in an away September 14-15 tie in Islamabad, however, doubts have persisted over it happening given the security record of Pakistan. Moreover with rising tensions between India and Pakistan post legislative developments in Jammu and Kashmir, ensuring the safety of Indian players is surely a mammoth task for the Pakistani administration.
Members of the Indian team and captain Mahesh Bhupathi have also indicated towards the team’s reservation against travelling to the terror infested nation, at a time when the internal situation in Pakistan is very volatile. Bhupathi and AITA secretary general Hironmoy Chatterjee will be attending the meeting with the ITF to convince the tennis body to shift the venue for the September tie to a neutral location as travel to Pakistan has been virtually ruled out.
The AITA had also written to the ITF last week to urge for the tie to be postponed, however with no positive reply from the ITF, the AITA has decided to press for a neutral venue.”We will request the ITF to have the tie on a neutral venue so that both the teams are comfortable,” said Chatterjee. “There is a Davis Cup rule that if there is political unrest, the tie be postponed or played in a neutral place,” added Hironmoy Chatterjee.
While security situation in Pakistan remains dangerously volatile, Pakistani Tennis player Aisam Qureshi told Pakistani newspaper The Nation, “Now when the ITF security team has visited Pakistan and has shown satisfaction with the arrangements made by Pakistan government and the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) has assured that Indian delegation will get red box security, why are they making lame excuses?”
However, these ‘lame excuses’ were adequate for the ITF, which had banned Davis Cup ties(from 2005 to 2017) from being hosted in Pakistan due to safety concerns. Concerns of sporting bodies over safety of players in Pakistan is not new. In 2009, 12 gunmen had attacked a bus carrying the Sri Lanka national cricket team. The cricketers were on their way to play the third day of the second Test against the Pakistani cricket team. Six members of the Sri Lankan national cricket team were wounded. Six Pakistani policemen and two civilians were killed.
For the very same reasons many nations including India have discontinued tours to Pakistan because of the dismal security situation in the rogue nation.
Moreover, the tie, if it takes place, is also poised to be an easy walkover for the Indian team. In singles, the Indian team constitutes of Gunneswaran (rank: 91), Ramkumar Ramanathan (180) and Saketh Myneni (250), and Asian Games men’s doubles gold medallist Divij Sharan (47) will partner Bopanna (39) for the doubles match. Meanwhile, Pakistan will have to bank only on two 39-year-olds, Qureshi (ranked 54 in doubles) and the unranked Aqeel Khan.