The closure of Pakistan’s air space in the aftermath of the Balakot air strikes has resulted in India losing the hosting rights of the junior Davis Cup and Fed Cup, a source in the national federation told PTI on Tuesday.
A total of 16 Under-16 Davis Cup teams, including Pakistan, were to travel to India for the annual competition, often dubbed as the World Cup of tennis. The junior Davis Cup was to be held at the DLTA complex from April 8-13 while the Fed cup matches were scheduled from April 15-20.
“Pakistan’s air space was locked down at that time and airports (in India) were also on high alert. No one knew for how long the uncertain situation will prevail. So, a consensus emerged that it’s best to shift the venue and India could host tournaments in future,” a highly-placed source told PTI.
Both the competitions will now be held in Bangkok, Thailand.
The tensions between the two neighbours heightened after the Pulwama terror attack in which more than 40 CRPF personnel were killed. The responsibility of the attack was taken by Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed.
India retaliated with an air strike, targetting a training camp of the outfit on February 26. Pakistan’s air space remains closed till date in the aftermath. The source said logistics became a big issue for almost all the participating countries.
“Since the air space was locked, the flights had to take a detour, which meant increase in cost and more travel time. For instance, Kazakhstan would have taken three-four extra hours to reach New Delhi in the prevailing situation.”
“So there was a discussion among the International Tennis Federation Federation (ITF), hosts All India Tennis Association (AITA), Asian Tennis Federation (ATF) and a few other stake-holders and it was decided that for the time being, it was prudent to shift the venue.”
“It’s not that India is not a secure place but due to the uncertainty caused by the tension between the two neighbours, everyone felt that it’s a fair call to take the tournament somewhere else,” said the source, privy to the developments.
However, another official, who did not wish to be named, said that AITA has actually saved itself from trouble by agreeing to a change in venue because if the tournament remained in New Delhi, the federation had to plead with the government for the visa approval of the Pakistan contingent.
“If the venue was not changed, AITA had to ensure that Pakistan athletes are provided visas. And in prevailing situation, no one can give that guarantee. So it’s wise decision by AITA to agree to the arrangement,” the official said.
When the ITF was approached for a comment, an official said, “I would like to inform you that the host nation decided to change the official venue to Bangkok. We were contacted by the ATF of (sic) the venue change for the Asia/Oceania final qualifying event.”
When the All India Tennis Association was asked about it, Secretary General Hironmoy Chatterjee claimed that AITA failed to raise funds for the tournament.
“Raising funds for tennis tournaments is very difficult in this country. We had recently hosted the Davis Cup in Kolkata and now we are short of funds. The government also does not help so we informed the ITF that we can’t host it,” Chatterjee told PTI.
Asked why didn’t AITA factor all this when the events were allotted by the ITF, Chatterjee said, “we were hoping to arrange funds at that time.”
“You have to provide hospitality for these events. The stay, food, travel, everything has to be arranged for all players and officials. It’s a lot of money.”
It is learnt that it would have cost AITA about Rs 50 lakh to host the tournament and a part of the expenses would have been borne by the ITF.