There were speculations and now comes the confirmation. Former Grand Slam champion, Mahesh Bhupathi will be the new non-playing captain of the Indian Davis Cup squad, after India’s tie against New Zealand in February next year in Pune. Bhupathi, will take over from another legend Anand Amritraj, who despite seeking an extension hasn’t been granted one by the All India Tennis Association (AITA).
Amritraj, however will handle the team against New Zealand, while Zeeshan Ali has been named as the coach. These announcements were made at a press meet held in New Delhi today. The probable squad for the match against New Zealand includes Leander Paes, Saketh Myneni, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Yuki Bhambri and Prajnesh Gunneswaran. A notable absentee is Rohan Bapanna, who has been left out.
There were speculations that Amritraj would face the axe on disciplinary grounds. However, that has been refuted by the AITA. “Amritraj has done a good job and there were no disciplinary issues in the camp. We have retained him till the New Zealand tie and want to give Mahesh a chance,” said AITA secretary Hironmoy Chatterjee at the press meet.
“Everybody should get a chance to be captain. No post stays with one person forever. I personally spoke to Mahesh and asked if he is available, he said ‘Yes’. That was it. Also we wanted Anand to be given a farewell tie,” Chatterjee said.
Amritraj has always rubbished allegations of indiscipline in the team since taking charge in 2013. “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 was quoted in an interview to PTI. Even the players were keen on having him as the captain.
“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AITA is not prepared to heed the wishes of the players and wants to use some pretext of indiscipline or some comment I originally made about match timings, to terminate me as Captain, then so be it,” Amritraj had added. But it seems, the AITA wants to look ahead and doesn’t want to continue with Amritraj.
Chatterjee vehemently denied receiving any official letter from the players. “When a committee meets, we discuss a lot of things. But let me tell you that we did not receive any letter of support from the players,” he elaborated.
Bhupathi’s appointment looks interesting enough, as he will be captaining a side that also has his former doubles partner Paes, with whom he is no longer on the best of terms. With Bhupathi in charge and Paes being an important member of the team, there could be simmering tensions between the two, which might have an adverse effect on the performance of the team. But it’s better to sound positive.
It remains to be seen how professionally the two legendary players deal with this delicate situation. After all, country comes first!
(With inputs from PTI)