Pune is set to host India’s next Davis Cup tie against New Zealand on the hard courts of Balewadi Sports Complex and the team’s support staff could be in for some change as the tenure of both non-playing captain Anand Amritraj and coach Zeeshan Ali is ending later this year. The Indian team was whitewashed in the World Group Play-off by mighty Spain in New Delhi while New Zealand had blanked Pakistan 5-0 to stay in Asia/Oceania Group I.
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AITA Vice President Bharat Oza, with permission from Secretary General Hironmoy Chatterjee, made the announcement at a press conference.
“The decision to host the tie was made at the AITA Management Committee on October 24,” Oza, who is also President of the Maharashtra State Lawn Tennis Association (MSLTA), said.
Oza said MSLTA was the only Association that showed interest in hosting the tie, scheduled for February 3-5.
“Davis Cup is a loss-making proposition, that’s why not many come forward to host it,” he said adding that the state government will support them for the organisation of the tie.
Oza also said the term of both Amritraj, who had replaced SP Misra and Zeeshan, who came in place of Nandan Bal, will end in December.
“Their performance will be assessed by the selection committee which will submit a report to the Executive Committee, which will then decide if a change is required. There will be deliberation but I don’t want to speculate,” he said.
However, Oza dropped hints that there maybe a change when he said that, “AITA would like to see rules and disciplines be implemented.”
It had been reported recently that Amritraj had failed to impose discipline in the team.
Asked if the players’ feedback will also be taken before deciding the fate of Amritraj and Zeeshan, Oza said it is AITA’s “prerogative to decide on the issue”.
When reminded that it was on the players’ insistence that Misra and Nandan Bal were removed in 2013 and replaced by Amritraj and Zeeshan, Oza said the Federation will decide on this.
“AITA has been soft (on players),” he said adding that they do not appreciate the comments that were made by a few players when the changes were made.
MSLTA Secretary Sunder Iyer said it will be the first Davis Cup tie in Pune in 42 years. The last tie was held in 1974 when India hosted Russia on grass at Deccan Gymkhana.
“The players have also given a positive feedback on the facilities and courts here. They are happy to play,” Iyer said.
Paes, after his arrival here for the Challenger, had said that the centre court here is fastest on the Tour, much to his liking and style of play.
India have not lost to New Zealand in the last five ties played between the two teams. They emerged victorious in 2015, 2012, 2004, 2003, 2002 and lost three ties (1978, 1976, 1975) out of eight played so far.
If India win the first round, they will clash with the winner of the other first round between Uzbekistan and Korea. If it’s against Uzbekistan, it will be a home tie again but it will be an away fixture if it’s against Korea for the second round, scheduled for April 7-9.
The home tie will give veteran Leander Paes, if he is picked in the team, a chance to create a world record of most doubles victories in the Davis Cup history.
He is tied on 42 wins with Italian legend Nicola Pietrangeli, who also owns the world record of most singles win (78).
Asked if AITA will continue to have Paes in the team, Oza said personally he would like to see youngsters in the side, looking at the future.
“We would like to have three singles players and one doubles. We will go by ranking,” he said.
Rohan Bopanna (22) is higher-ranked than Paes (55) at this moment and if he makes himself available then the AITA could be faced with a tricky situation.
“We usually follow rankings but Leander’s contribution is such that he will always be in picture,” he said.