Black Friday in Indian tennis

Sukhwant Basra

India, Jan. 11 -- Things continue to stay murky in Indian tennis. While the national federation came out with a media release on Friday which reflected a significant comedown with the body conceding the demand of a six-member team, choice of physiotherapist and business class travel for all four playing members, the players claimed that this was all talk.

The players say that while there was some such allusion on the phone, no official communication to this effect was received.

Finding the weak link

In all this rigmarole, it is surprising to learn that Somdev Devvarman, the most vocal of the rebels, was not spoken to at length. Instead, the federation looked to offer concessions to players it thought was the weak link in the united stand. In a surprising show of strength, not only did all eight stay together but were also joined by three others just below them in the rankings.

In the run-up to the selection committee meeting on Friday, AITA CEO Hironmoy Chatterjee had told the press that two of the rebels had broken away from the united front. This proved to be untrue. Now, the AITA is claiming that further concessions were given to the players after discussion with life president Yashwant Sinha. The players say they have got no fresh communication.

The body would do well to provide proof of having written afresh to all the players lest it appear to be misleading the national press.

Word from the players' camp says that it was likely that they would have put their other reservations on hold if the new concessions had been sent to them. Some went on to suggest that they would then have been available for the tie. Since the whole selection process has been based on the availability of players, if the rebels would have reconsidered in the wake of new concessions, then perhaps the selection committee may well have to meet again.

Looking past the squabbling administrators and players, this Friday will go down as a black day in the history of Indian tennis.

The bottom line is that India will field a far weaker challenge against South Korea. The team chosen is not even our second-best as those players also went with the rebellion. Instead we are putting up a third-string squad.

Of course, the players have had many a grievance against the national body. But one would have expected them to shrug aside the irritants in order to play for India. All indications suggested the same. As to just how the administrator-player negotiations got so out of hand that India will field a truncated challenge in a home tie is a lesson in poor deal-making.

Now, whether the ultimate villains of this piece are the rebels or the administrators still remains to be seen.

Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.