Ministry returns ball to AITA court

Says tennis federation’s call final when it comes to picking players to represent the country

Written by Smriti Sinha | New Delhi | Published:June 20, 2012 12:28 am

After a meeting with the All India Tennis Association (AITA) on Tuesday,sports minister Ajay Maken clarified that the decision to choose a men’s doubles team for the Olympics lies with the federation and that the government would not advice them any further. “The sports ministry does not wish to be part of selection process. We had raised certain issues because of requests from certain iconic players,” Maken said in a statement.

Maken had sought an explanation on Monday after the tennis body had decided to send just one team to the London Games while ignoring the ranking combination of Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna. In its reply,the AITA said that sending the above pair would be an ‘insult’ to Leander Paes,who is currently India’s highest ranked doubles player. “Asking Leander,the India No. 1 player to partner a junior player would be the most inappropriate decision and will be deemed an insult to Paes who enjoys great respect in the International Tennis Circuit,” the AITA letter to the ministry noted.

Gave no guarantee: AITA

The federation also clarified that they had never conveyed anything to the players that would make them assume that the choice of partners would be up to them. “AITA had noted that Mahesh and Rohan are playing together but at no stage had stated that they will necessarily be sent as a team,irrespective of the standing of other players.”

After the ministry’s decision to wash its hands of the affair,Bhupathi said he would now adopt a wait and watch policy and was waiting for the federation to announce its ‘final team.’ “We (Rohan and I) had made our position clear two days back,and now the AITA and ministry have made their statements as well. The rounds of negotiation are over. What AITA had written to the ministry were only suggestions and options for the ministry to consider… So I am just waiting for the federation to announce their final team. As of now,I haven’t received a call from them,” Bhupathi said.

If Bhupathi refuses,the AITA will again ask Bopanna to partner Paes,but the AITA also mentioned that in case both Bhupathi and Bopanna do not abide by its decisions,they might not be sent to the Olympics at all. It was hinted that Paes would then be paired up with a junior player.

“It shoud be understood that two players cannot make a pact with each other to keep the No. 1 player out and thereafter,publicly suggest that the No. 1 player should go to the Olympics with the No. 5 player…In case Mahesh and Rohan do not abide by the selection committee decision,Leander participates in Olympics with a junior player and Mahesh and Rohan are not entered due to disciplinary reasons,” said the AITA.

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