As the All India Tennis Association (AITA) prepares for its meeting with the International Tennis Federation (ITF) on Tuesday, former Davis Cup player and captain Vijay Amritraj wants the Indian body to make a decision purely on sporting and security grounds. In the wake of the Indian government stripping Jammu and Kashmir off its special status, the relations between the two countries have been downgraded.
The Indian sports ministry however has made it clear that the government will in no way interfere with the AITA’s decision to send a team for the Asia/Oceania Group 1 tie scheduled to take place in Islamabad on September 14-15.
“Since that’s the case, then you’re really left with one clear sporting group (AITA) that is making the call,” Amritraj says. “And as far as the sporting group is concerned, I would assume the only issue on the table would be the security of the team, specifically from a sporting aspect. That’s it, everything else is immaterial.”
Concerns from the Indian team emerged after the Pakistani government decided to send back the Indian ambassador to Pakistan and to recall their own envoy based in New Delhi, while also severing railway and road links between the two countries. Amid all the tensions however, the ITF has asserted that the security arrangements the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) had made for the tie continues to remain sufficient.
“What is important, and I think the ITF is fully aware of it, from the tennis perspective, the ITF would have to guarantee comfort and security for the visiting team,” says Amritraj. “They guarantee security with Pakistan’s backing, and Pakistan will and should make the right security arrangements.”
Last week, the ITF had shared with the AITA details of the security measures in place for the Indian team’s visit. Additionally, the ITF has granted the AITA a telephonic meeting with the ITF security advisors, which has now been postponed till Tuesday. “We will explain to them our view and decided if we want to push for another venue,” AITA secretary general Hironmoy Chatterjee had told The Indian Express. “We are also going to involve our Davis Cup captain Mahesh Bhupathi for the meeting.”
On behalf of the five-member team selected for the tie, Bhupathi had written to the AITA making clear the players’ reservations about travelling to Pakistan, and asking the Indian body to push for a neutral venue for the tie. “Under normal circumstances, everything would be fine,” Amritraj says about the prospect of an Indian Davis Cup team travelling to Pakistan for the first time in 55 years. “But there have been issues all the way from Pulwama to now. The sad part is that we are, by so many lengths, the better team. If the tie does happen, the team has a 90-10 chance of winning.”