NEW DELHI: Wednesday’s draw at the International Tennis Federation (ITF) headquarters in London for the Group I and Group II Davis Cup ties in mid-September has caught the All India Tennis Association (AITA) between a rock and a hard place.
Why? India has been drawn to play an away Davis Cup zonal tie against Pakistan, a no-go for high profile Indian sports teams considering the continuing political tensions with the neighbouring country.
Since tennis is not cricket where India's economic might ensures it can demand a neutral venue at the very least, AITA has everything to lose and nothing to gain if it were to refuse to send a team to the "enemy country".
With India needing to get past Pakistan to re-enter the World Group qualifiers, a trip across the border is inevitable. It bears noting that by virtue of India being the top seeds in the Asia/Oceania Zone Group I, a win against Pakistan is all but guaranteed. For the record, Pakistan has never registered a win over India in Davis Cup in six encounters – their most recent clash being back in 2006.
And the security card in not an option either. Hong Kong had refused to travel to Pakistan in 2017 citing security concerns, and were subsequently relegated to a lower tier and fined $5,000 by the ITF as a result of the forfeiture, Indian Express reports. They also had to pay $10,971 to the Pakistan federation.
The players have made their position clear on the matter. “It’s a good draw for us with the depth in our team,” said non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi. “We are looking forward to winning and getting back to the World Cup playoffs again.”
At stake for India is a seventh chance of making it back to the World Group in as many years. For that though, a trip to Pakistan is essential. For that to happen, the government will perforce have to play ball.
The Indian Davis Cup team fell back into the Group 1 of the Asia/Oceania zone after its loss to Italy in the World Group Qualifiers last weekend.