Davis Cup captain Anand Amritraj on Sunday strongly defended himself, saying there has never been breach of discipline during his three-year reign and if AITA want to sack him on the pretext of it, he can’t help it.
Amritraj, who took over as non-playing captain in 2013 in place of SP Misra, is facing a lot of flak after reports of indiscipline in the team emerged with AITA going on record to say that there maybe a change in support staff.
However, India’s top singles players have supported Amritraj whole-heartedly and have written to AITA that they do not favour any change in the support staff.
“If the AITA is not prepared to heed the wishes of the players and wants to use some pretext of indiscipline or some comment I originally made about match timings, to terminate me as Captain, then so be it,” Amritraj told PTI.
“I would like the tennis loving public of our country to know that I have always been totally committed to my job as Captain of the Indian Davis Cup team and there has never been and never will be a serious breach of discipline under my watch,” he said.
“Over the past few days, there have been a few articles in the media regarding my captaincy. Most of them have been factually incorrect or totally false. Having played Davis Cup for India for 20 years and twice taken our country to the Davis Cup Final, I know very well the importance of discipline on and off the court.”
An emotional Amritraj put forward his explanation on all three charges, levelled against him. It was alleged that a player had brought his girlfriend in the dressing room during the Serbia tie in Bangalore in 2014.
“There is a huge difference between someone being in the dressing room or locker room and the players lounge, which is where she was. The dressing room is where players get changed, have massages and compose themselves before matches. No one other than team members and the trainers and physios are allowed in there.
“The players lounge is where the families, wives and girlfriends are permitted to hang out. I personally did not see this incident, because I was on court during Somdev’s singles match, as was the rest of the team. I’m not sure why this incident is being brought up more than two years later, if it was such a problem, it should have been brought to my notice soon after.
“As captain, I made it a firm rule that no girlfriends were allowed to be present till Friday, the first day of the tie. Even Somdev, who was our top player, would check with me whether he could bring his girlfriend, and I said that if she arrived on Friday morning, that would be fine, not during the five practice days before that.”
It was also reported that one of the younger players brought his girlfriend to Delhi on the Monday of the Spain tie. Amritraj confirmed the incident but said it was dealt with in the best possible manner.
“After consulting with Mr. (Hironmoy) Chatterjee, Zeeshan (Ali), I sat down with the player and told him to send her home, which was done right away.”
Amritraj also refuted the charge that the players indulged in drinking during the Korea tie in Chandigarh in July this year.
“The team went out to a nice dinner to celebrate our win and none of the players had a drink, certainly not in front of me. These are the true and exact facts of the three so-called incidents, distorted and blown up by the media for no reason,” he said assertively.
AITA was extremely unhappy when Amritraj criticised the evening timing of the Spain tie in New Delhi in September. The 64-year-old also said that he had clarified the matter with the AITA officials.
“On my first day in Delhi, I met with Mr Khanna and Mr Chatterjee separately and told them that I had not intended to stir up controversy on the late timing of the matches and that I just felt we might be better off playing in the daytime.
“I apologised for any misunderstanding and they both told me not to worry about it. At the press conference on Tuesday, in front of about 50 of the press, I said I’d changed my mind about the timing of the matches and that we were probably better off playing in the evening. I felt I had smoothed things over with the AITA.
“Under my captaincy in the past three years, we have done better than most people expected. Currently, India is ranked 19 in the Davis Cup official rankings, the highest we’ve been in a very long time. With a team that has no player in the top 150 of the singles ranking, that’s quite an achievement.”
Amritraj also said the reason the team had success in the past three years is because of the harmony, chemistry and camaraderie within the unit.
“I have always tried to make sure the boys are in a good frame of mind and ready to produce their best. Which is why four of our top players had sent a letter to the AITA in October letting them know that they were very happy with me as Captain and Zeeshan as Coach and to please leave the team management unchanged,” he concluded.
His fate as the Indian team captain will be decided by the end of this month.