Flaying Bhupathi, AITA CEO Hiranmoy Chatterjee tells Chander Shekhar Luthra that the association will not concede an inch. Excerpts:
What is AITA’s stand now after the players rejected new coach (Zeeshan Ali) and captain (SP Mishra)?
We’ve been very reasonable and have conveyed our response to the players. The players are asking for a reconsideration. They want their demands to be acceded to. Or else they’ll stay united on the issue. We’ve done all that we could. So let them stay united. Only those who confirm their availability by January 10 will be considered for selection. The rest may watch from the sidelines.
Should Leander Paes, or even the most junior player, have to inform the AITA about their availability?
Yes, every player, whoever it is. That’s the normal procedure because we can’t be sure if they are fit to play or have any other problem. There can’t be different rules for different players.
Do you have backup players to fill in?
You’ll know on January 11. We will select a team equally good. There are a lot of players whose rankings are close to that of the current lot. Today, Somdev Devvarman is much lower in the rankings and doesn’t qualify to be considered for selection. Also, we’re going to select only one doubles player, and Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna do not qualify. Leander Paes is ranked number three in the world. We’re going to select only him as our first doubles player before anyone else. We’ll select three singles player; one out of them will partner Leander in the doubles. We’re not worried at all.
Why is AITA adamant on its stand and not talking to the players?
Look, there is only one player with an ulterior motive here and that is Mahesh Bhupathi. He does this every time he gets a chance. Now, he’s got another chance to destroy the career of all these youngsters to suit his purpose. These youngsters have to understand the kind of person he is before taking a call. They have their future in tennis, whereas Bhupathi, as a player, is over by now.
Are you in touch with them?
Yes, I had a meeting with all of them on December 30. I heard their grievances and discussed them with the AITA working committee. We tried to resolve the issue by making changes wherever possible. But the players can’t really dictate to the association who should be the captain, coach or support staff. They are overstepping their brief. We know how to handle them. If they don’t fall in line, they will all watch the Davis Cup tie from the stands.
Have you tried to contact the players recently?
No. They jointly sent this mail saying “they stay united whatever happens”. So let them stay united and be out of the tie. There is no question of a compromise as that will send a wrong signal to the coming generation. A player’s job is to play and not to play politics. And AITA stands firm on this.
How hopeful are you that this issue can be resolved by the January 10 deadline?
It’s up to them. Those who want to play should convey their willingness. We’re not going to plead with them to play for the country. I can only urge the youngsters to stay out of this Bhupathi conspiracy and concentrate instead on their own future.
Why is the AITA president Anil Khanna silent?
Because I’ve taken over as CEO now. My decision is final. There is no question of any overruling or veto from any AITA official or member.