“Nobody Can Say I Refused National Duty”, Mahesh Bhupathi Blasts AITA

The former captain of the Indian Davis Cup team, Mahesh Bhupathi, along with his teammate Rohan Bopanna has entered into a battle of words with the All India Tennis Association (AITA) soon after the International Tennis Federation announced rescheduling of the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I game between India and Pakistan to a neutral venue.

Originally, the Davis Cup tie was scheduled to be played in Islamabad in September and Bhupathi, Bopanna and 5 other players had pulled out of the tour citing safety concerns.

Owing to Bhupathi’s decision to pull out of the tour, AITA replaced Bhupathi with Rohit Rajpal as the non-playing captain on Monday. AITA said that Bhupathi was removed because he refused national duty.

However, just hours after AITA’s decision to replace the captain, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) rescheduled the match to a neutral venue citing the same security concerns that Bhupathi had cited to withdraw himself from the tour.

Just as ITF’s decision was made public, Bhupathi and Bopanna sprung into action. Bhupathi, in an interview with PTI, said that he was least bothered about losing out on captain’s job, but, at the same time he was not ready to accept AITA’s allegation that he refused national duty.

Bhupathi, one of the most successful players in India’s tennis history, further went on to say that even if he is not the captain, AITA needed to formally inform him about the decision.

However, the AITA secretary general Hironmoy Chatterjee downplayed Bhupathi’s claim saying he had informed Bhupathi about the change in captaincy.

Bhupathi, on the other hand, said that the only message that was conveyed to him was that Rajpal was appointed for the Islamabad tie. He was not even hinted that he was ousted permanently.

Amid all this tension between Bhupathi and AITA, Rohan Bopanna took to twitter in support of Bhupathi as he expressed his unhappiness at the players not being taken into confidence before changing the captaincy.

Reacting to Bopanna’s statement, the AITA president emphasized that it was not the players’ domain to comment on policy matters. Chatterjee further added that the job of a player is to play and they have no rights to question AITA on areas outside their domain.

“Who is he (Bopanna) to ask such questions?”, said Chatterjee.

While things look so out of order in India, Pakistan, on the other hand, have a confusion of their own. The Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) has called a meeting to decide whether to appeal against ITF’s decision to shift the tie from Islamabad.

Saleem Saifullah, the president of the PTF, said that they have the option to appeal. He also confirmed that Pakistan’s top tennis players Aisam ul Haq Qureshi and Aqeel Khan have decided not to participate in the tie if the venue is shifted out of Islamabad.

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