Kolkata, July 28 (IANS) For the first time in 55 years, the Indian tennis team will travel to Pakistan for their two-day Asia-Oceania Group 1 tie in September, and the squad for the same is likely to be named on August 5, the All India Tennis Association (AITA) said on Sunday.
“We have got the invitation and now we are in the process of getting the visas done. We will be going to Pakistan for the Davis Cup tie. The squad is likely to be announced on the 5th of August,” AITA Secretary General Hironmoy Chatterjee confirmed to IANS.
“I have said previously as well, that this is something we cannot avoid as this is the World Cup of tennis. We will be penalised if we don’t turn up,” he said.
India will be slapped with a fine like Hong Kong were after they refused to play an away tie in Pakistan. They were not only fined but also relegated to a lower division.
An Indian tennis team last went to Pakistan in 1964, with the visitors securing a 4-0 victory.
Since the draw was out in February, there was a lot of talk around India going to Pakistan in the wake of the Pulwama attack and the strained political ties between the countries.
But after the International Tennis Federation (ITF) gave Pakistan the green signal to host the Davis Cup tie at the grass courts of the Pakistan Sports Complex in Islamabad, AITA started the process of checking player availability and sorting visa applications.
The sports ministry also cleared the Indian team’s participation in the tie. This will be the first time since 2006 that the two countries will meet in the Davis Cup.
Pakistan did not host a Davis Cup tie for 12 years due to security reasons. The ban was lifted by the ITF in 2017.
Regarding the five players for the team travelling to Pakistan, going by rankings, Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Ramkumar Ramanathan and Sumit Nagal should be picked for singles with Rohan Bopanna and Divij Sharan forming the doubles team.
India and Pakistan last met in 2006 with the former winning by a 3-2 margin after a marathon five-set, fifth rubber at the Brabourne Stadium in Mumbai.
Former India No. 1 tennis player Somdev Devvarman told IANS a few days ago that it’s a great opportunity for the Davis Cup team to “build relationships” with their Pakistan counterparts.
“It’s great. Honestly, I wish I was part of the team,” Somdev had said.
“It’s a fantastic opportunity for our players to go and experience Pakistan. Amazing opportunity for young athletes to go and build relationships with countries that we have problems with historically,” said Somdev, who is now the national observer for tennis.
“It’s a message of peace and play tennis in a competitive environment with mutual respect. I hope they make the most of it.”
(Debayan Mukherjee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)