Davis Cup: Pakistan teens to take on Leander Paes

Mumbai: The pulsating India-Pak sport rivalry on Wednesday hit a new low after the neighbours announced their Davis Cup team, which comprises teenagers who are expected to take on the seasoned Indian side.

Senior Pakistan players Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and Aqeel Khan, who had pulled out in protest against the tie being shifted to a neutral venue, have been replaced by two rookie 17-year-olds.

“India wanted to win this tie, so now they can win it easily,” Pakistan Tennis Federation President, Salim Saifullah Khan was reported as saying by PTI.

The two Pakistan teenagers -- Huzaifa Abdul Rehman and Shoaib Khan -- are ranked as lowly as 446 and 1004, respectively, in the junior ITF ranking list. Yousuf Khan and Ahmad Kamil, also teenagers, complete the squad.

As against this, India has picked an unprecedented seven-member squad for the tie, rewarding players who agreed to travel to Islamabad when top players had refused.

Veteran star Leander Paes returned to the Indian team after more than a year along with top players Sumit Nagal, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Sasi Kumar Mukund; Rohan Bopanna, who had reservations on travelling to Pakistan due to security concerns, has opted out due to injury.

However, Khan’s comment that India can now win easily has offended several officials of All India Tennis Association (AITA), one of whom dubbed Pakistan’s decision to send rookies as an ‘insult’ to India’s touring Davis Cup Team.

“They (Pak) must have picked the best out of what was available, anyway,” the official told Free Press Journal by phone.

“The ITF has made it clear in their constitution that if you pull out of the tournament there would be a price to pay, and Pakistan wouldn’t want that,” the official further said.

The world governing body on Tuesday shifted the Davis Cup tie from Islamabad to Kazakhstan capital Nur-Sultan.