Rebels refuse to budge, AITA picks second string Davis Cup squad

New Delhi, Jan 11 (IANS) The All India Tennis Association (AITA) Friday was forced to select a second string squad, with Leander Paes being the only old face, for the Davis Cup tie against South Korea after the Somdev Devvarman-led rebel players refused to make themselves available for national duty.

The other players are V.M. Ranjeet, Vijayant Malik and Purav Raja, who will be making their Davis Cup debut here in the Feb 1-3 tie. Paes will team up with Raja for the doubles. Ashwin Vijayaraghavan and Arjun Khade are the two reserves.

The AITA was forced to pick a completely new squad after the eight rebel players refused to budge despite some additional concessions the national body made .

The AITA has agreed to increase the team size to six; select a physiotherapist in consultation with the players and not necessarily from the Sports Authority of India (SAI); and provide business class tickets for four players.

AITA chief executive Hiranmoy Chatterjee said that players are adamant on their stand of having a coach and captain of their choice and this was not acceptable.

"We have given then all the time in the world to make themselves available for the tie. But they refused to budge. In terms of financial compensation, we have accepted all their demands. But the players want a coach and captain of their choice. It is not acceptable because a player cannot expect to be a player, coach, selector and administrator at the same time," said Chatterjee.

AITA secretary general Bharat Oza said that it had already been made it clear to the rebel players that it is the association that would decide the captain and coach. S.P.Mishra has been retained as the non-playing captain while Zeeshan Ali was appointed the coach.

"The players were informed that they could get back to AITA by today till 12 noon. As we did not receive any communication, it was decided to select the team based on the available players. It may not be out of place to mention that for the tie against Korea, the prize money which will be distributable to players in case they win the tie will be Rs. 24 lakhs besides the four main players receiving Rs.14 lakhs towards travel expenses," said Oza.

Asked why newly-crowned national champion Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan and Sriram Balaji were not considered for the tie, selection committee chairman Anil Dhupar said: "We had approached them as well, but they also did not make themselves available for the tie. We think they have also joined the (rebel) group."

Neduchezhiyan and Balaji played as a doubles team in the Chennai Open.

On the team, Dhupar said: "We had to select this team based on the availability of the players. We are giving the youngsters a good chance and we have full faith in them."

Oza said the AITA has given maximum concessions to the players.

"The AITA said that no association in Asia provides business class airfare for players for Davis Cup. AITA finds the decision of players is not fair and constructive. AITA has given maximum concessions to convince the players," said Oza.

Eight players had threatened to boycott the Davis Cup tie if their demands were not met. Devvarman, Mahesh Bhupathi, Rohan Bopanna, Yuki Bhambri, Sanam Singh, Vishnu Vardhan, Divij Saran and Sanam Singh had signed a statement against "certain practices observed in the management of the Davis Cup squad" in what they said was an effort to improve Indian tennis.

The players' demands included: 1) The team should comprise of six players to ensure adequate practice partners. 2) The decision-making process for choosing the surface and venue for home ties should involve the participation of all active players. 3) The team management should include a common physiotherapist and coach. 4) A revised agreement should be made for the distribution of Davis Cup prize money.

The AITA had accepted most of the demands Jan 6.

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