November 7, 2019 / 4:24 PM / a month ago

Venue worry delays India's Davis Cup team selection v Pakistan

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India will wait until the venue of their deferred Davis Cup clash against rivals Pakistan is known before naming their squad for the Asia/Oceania Group I tie, newly-appointed captain Rohit Rajpal said on Thursday.

The International Tennis Federation (ITF) postponed the tie between the neighbors, originally scheduled in Islamabad in September, to Nov. 29-30 following a security review.

ITF announced on Monday that the event will be played at a neutral venue, as demanded by the All India Tennis Federation (AITA) which cited security concerns.

But with the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) opting to appeal against the ITF decision, the venue uncertainty has forced India to delay the team selection.

“I don’t know if they can convince ITF and get it back to Islamabad. I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Rajpal told reporters.

“We could very well be going back to Pakistan. My role as the captain is now to make sure that all the players are together and we win the tie.”

Pakistan expelled India’s ambassador and suspended bilateral trade with its neighbor in August after New Delhi removed “special status” from its portion of the contested region of Kashmir.

Bilateral cricketing ties between the two nations have remained suspended since 2008. An Indian tennis team last traveled to Pakistan in 1964 for a Davis Cup tie, defeating the hosts 4-0, while Pakistan lost 3-2 on their last visit to India in 2006.

The venue dispute has also led to bad blood between the AITA and its top players.

Rajpal was appointed India captain on Monday replacing multiple doubles Grand Slam winner Mahesh Bhupathi who, along with several players, had declined to tour Pakistan.

Bhupathi subsequently criticized the way he was removed hours before ITF announced a neutral venue and was backed on social media by players including Rohan Bopanna and Sumit Nagal.

In case the tie is played at a neutral venue, the likes of Bopanna and Nagal would be considered despite their criticism of the federation, Rajpal said.

“Assuming it’s a neutral venue, we’ll start the process again,” Rajpal said.

“We’ll decide the squad based on whether it’s a neutral venue and on what surface.”

Rajpal said the list of players ready to tour Pakistan, should the tie return to Islamabad, included 46-year-old Leander Paes.

Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Christian Radnedge

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