Rebels seek ministry's intervention

New Delhi: Rebel tennis players on Thursday sought the intervention of the sports ministry, requesting it to order an enquiry into the way they were ignored from the Davis Cup squad for the tie against South Korea next month.

The players, which included the likes of Mahesh Bhupathi, Somdev Dev Varman and Rohan Bopanna, refused to declare themselves available for the match after All India Tennis Association (AITA) rejected their demands.

"We have written to the ministry of youth affairs and sports, requesting the honourable minister's intervention into the stance adopted by the AITA, as well as an enquiry into the actions of the AITA over the past few weeks," a joint statement by the players said.

"We believe that the AITA should divulge its reasoning behind the decision to field an inexperienced team at the crucial Davis Cup Group I fixture to be held in February against South Korea.

"We are hopeful of a beneficial and amicable outcome that would substantially change, for the better, the system of sports administration in India," the statement further added.

However, sports secretary PK Deb made it clear that the sports ministry won't intervene in this matter. "We have no role to play in selection matters. The AITA has the right to select the team. All we can do is talk informally, but it is up to AITA to select the team," Deb said.

The talks between AITA and rebel players broke down last week after the association said it was in no position to replace non-playing captain SP Mishra. The players also said they did not want Zeeshan Ali as the coach. AITA finally picked up an inexperienced squad with veteran Leander Paes as the only prominent player.

Meanwhile, Karti Chidambaram, who is also vice-president of the Tamil Nadu Tennis Association (TNTA), in his letter to the ministry, said they had been regularly advising the AITA to postpone the January 11 meeting as it had time until January 22 to announce the team.

"We at TNTA felt that the additional time available could be used to get the players around to a settlement. Instead, AITA went ahead and selected a third string team for the tie. I feel this hasty action by AITA has now ensured a certain defeat for India in the tie against Korea.

"I leave it to you to intervene once again and ensure that a strong Indian contingent plays the tie. We have only a few days to take corrective action and would appreciate your urgent action in this matter," the letter said.