Ending days of uncertainty over the Davis Cup tie between India and Pakistan, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) has nominated Nur-Sultan as the neutral venue to host the matches.
Keeping in mind the safety and security of players and officials, the ITF decided to move the tie for the upcoming tournament on November 4 after top Indian players pulled out over security concerns.
Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) had filed an appeal contesting the decision with an argument that if Indian pilgrims can visit Pakistan without any security threat, why can’t the Indian team play matches in Islamabad.
“The ITF has communicated to us that the tie will be held in Nur-Sultan. We can’t say if they rejected the PTF appeal. In a late-night communication, they just mentioned the new venue,” AITA CEO Akhuori Bishwadeep told PTI.
The matches will be played on indoor courts since extreme cold conditions there wont allow them to be staged outside.
“Playing indoor suits our players. It will work in our favour, not that our players cant play on grass but they a lot more comfortable on hard courts. The weather conditions are harsh and though we are playing indoors, it still affects the body,” India coach Zeeshan Ali told PTI.
“The quality of tennis is better playing indoors because factors like sun and wind do not affect the matches.”
The tie was scheduled to be held in September but was pushed to November 29-30 after India expressed concerns about the safety of their players due to the prevailing diplomatic tensions between the two nations following the revocation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Independent Tribunal of the ITF endorsed the change of venue decision by the Davis Cup Committee to the Kazakhstan capital to which the All India Tennis Association (AITA) will send a full-strength squad all the top players, who had refused to travel to Islamabad, agreed to play on a neutral venue.
The Indian side will be led by top singles players Sumit Nagal and Ramkumar Ramanathan while veteran Leander Paes and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan are likely to pair up for the doubles.
Top doubles player Rohan Bopanna pulled out of the tie on Monday after suffering a shoulder injury.
Zeeshan said Bopannas pulling out has proved that selecting three doubles specialist was a wise decision.
“It was the right call to have specialists as reserves. Bopanna is out and we have Jeevan to come in for him. We cant name the playing five now but Jeevan is the next person to get into playing squad. We will definitely miss Rohan.
“We have singles players who can play doubles as well, like Ramkumar but having a doubles specialist means that singles players won’t have to worry that they maybe required to play doubles.
“It is good to have a left-right combination (Jeevan and Leander Paes). If you look at the teams on paper, India is a stronger side and won’t have any problem in tackling Pakistan but anything can happen in Davis Cup. You can not take any match for granted,” he said, cautioning that taking Pakistan lightly is not a good idea despite the absence of higher-ranked players in the opposition ranks.
“Pressure is different on Davis Cup because you are not playing for yourself but for your country. So we picked our best players.”
Pakistans best player Aisam has threatened to pull out of the tie in protest against shifting of the tie, which may further weaken the Pakistan team. “That’s not our concern. Our job is to win the tie,” said Zeeshan.
(With inputs from agencies)