Somdev Devvarman tells Deba Prasad Dhar that players don’t speak their hearts out fearing that they might be marginalised.
AITA officials claimed to have acceded to some of your demands. They were on record saying that they agreed to the players’ choice of physio and business class travel. If that was true, why weren’t you people willing to be flexible in India’s interests?
First, let me clarify that there was no communication whatsoever on their (AITA’s) part. They never told us anything. We had nothing to fall back upon. We have records of the interaction we had with them as proof. Instead of having a dialogue, they made statements like the ‘government will stop funding us’ and all that. They have been unethical and unprofessional. It was only fair that we expected an assurance in writing. But nothing was acknowledged at their end. Rough end of the stick was all we got.
Did you guys at any stage consider a compromise formula? Would you have played if AITA had agreed to, let’s say, part of your demands, with a surety of a detailed and fruitful dialogue after the Davis Cup tie?
Look, our struggle would have continued. We have represented India proudly and our wants are not unreasonable. Fact is we would never have given in. It would be wrong to say that we would have relaxed our stance if part our genuine requirements were met.
Some of you have been on the circuit for many years. Then how come you people woke up to reality only now?
Over the years, I’ve been talking to AITA officials on the issues that had to be addressed on priority. Why me, even Rohan (Bopanna), Mahesh (Bhupathi) and Prakash (Amritraj) have had their differences with the AITA. Name one player who hasn’t been at conflict with them. On December 17 (2012), we sent them an email expressing our concern. We had formed a unit. We had a meeting with AITA on December 30, but nothing emerged out of it. On January 6, they released a statement that said nothing about our needs. What we asked for — a physio, a good doctor and a six-member team — was fair and deserved.
Do you think that even decent performances would have helped you people negotiate better? After the Olympics debacle, who’s in a mood to listen?
I don’t agree. Where this issue is concerned, it does not matter what we have achieved personally or professionally. You can’t disrespect us. Regardless of what we do on court, you can’t treat us indifferently. Why do you think players who haven’t played for the country have joined us?
Why is Leander Paes silent? As a senior pro and India’s No 1 player, shouldn’t he have been on the forefront of this activity?
That’s a question you should ask him, not me.
There’s an obvious disconnect here. It’s something the country is eager to know. Paes is part of the Davis Cup team. Why isn’t he with you?
We tried to get hold of him. I can understand he has his movie commitments. He keeps very busy. He spoke to me today (Saturday) and assured that he would hear me out. So I give him the benefit of doubt.
Coach Zeeshan Ali says he’s hurt. He thinks how will he know the players unless he gets a chance to be with them?
If he’s upset, we apologise. We didn’t intend to hurt him. No one is doubting his credentials. We know him as one who has played for India. We just felt that in order to get the results, we needed someone we were familiar with...
Don’t you fear risking your own career? Some of you might get banned or be marginalised forever.
That’s precisely the reason players are reluctant to come out in the open and speak their hearts out. The establishment keeps giving threats like they would stop funding us, give no support...
I don’t want anything for myself. I’ve played with my heart each time I represented the country. And it’s not just about me. Everyone deserves credit for standing strong as a group.
Forget about the rest, what about you? You might never again represent India, or could lose out on a lucrative contract with a franchise if the Indian tennis league sees the light of the day.
Honestly, it’s not something I’m focusing on at this point. In any case, we don’t play more than one or two Davis Cup ties in a year. Tennis is primarily an individual sport and I am a professional. I don’t think avenues to play will be denied to me. For now, I’m happy because we are united for a noble cause. And together we will be.