The Australian Open, with its fair share of flair and drama, is keeping the global audiences engrossed. But back in India, onlookers of Indian tennis have been held rapt by a different kind of rally between players and the sport’s administrative body.

The recent flare-up between the All India Tennis Association and Sumit Nagal – by way of roping in Somdev Devvarman and Indian Davis Cup skipper Anand Amritraj as active participants – has made a mockery of the establishment of tennis in the country. On a more urgent scale, it has created a controversy out of a topic that looked to have been put to rest and which, given the selection of the team for the upcoming Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I tie against New Zealand, has no bearing whatsoever upon the tie itself or any of the players set to participate in the same.

What to make of the AITA’s proclamations?

If the AITA had sought to provide an insight about its decision to drop Nagal from the Indian Davis Cup team, it chose quite an inopportune time to do so.

The contentiousness of Nagal’s commitment to the team, as allegedly demonstrated in his frivolity during the 2016 Asia/Oceania Group I tie against South Korea in July and during the World Group Play-Off against Spain later in September, is indeed worrying. But, not only did these incidents lapse in time, they were also dealt judiciously by the AITA internally. Or rather, they had been up to this point.

The prudence – previously – exercised by the AITA meant that the bare-bones of Nagal’s purported irresponsibility didn’t see the light of the day, despite numerous oblique references made about want of discipline in certain playing names. Amid the backwash of the high-handed and haphazard manner in which the team names were announced by the AITA selection committee for the upcoming tie against New Zealand, it also sent a mitigating message about the national tennis body’s intent towards stabilising the sport.

What’s the end result?

The AITA’s abrupt venting out about Nagal’s behaviour is then at variance with its own circumspection even as it has presented a contrarian picture of Indian tennis before the world. To that end, the purpose of the association’s decision to get into detail about the 19-year-old’s inconsistencies also remains unclear except that it has created unnecessary pandemonium, yet again.

Devvarman’s queries of, “Were you trying to teach Sumit a lesson? Are you trying to make an example out of him? What is it you’re exactly tying to accomplish is my question to you?” directed towards the AITA in his open letter, were accurate in their immediacy. However, they too have created a perception of sides being taken on either side of the youngster, which has further clouded the situation instead of providing clarity to it.

The latter aspect has been particularly drawn out, with the rebuttal of Nagal himself to the allegations against him and the subsequent countering by Amritraj, who had been pointedly silent with his opinions on the subject until then.

The skipper, who will be leading India against New Zealand in February in his last tie, has enjoyed considerable support from the players, who had been wanting him to continue as the team’s skipper. Paradoxically, it had, however, been the AITA that wasn’t keen on the extension of Amritraj’s tenure as the skipper, with lax discipline among the players cited as a cause of concern about his captaincy. With respect to Nagal’s alleged misdemeanour, shouldn’t Amritraj too been more careful in helping the player sort out his priorities, even if it meant side-lining him much earlier from the team for its greater good, instead of contributing to the current widespread airing of the team’s internal quandaries?

Where does Indian Davis Cup structure head to next?


The myriad vacillations that have kept shunting the blame sideways, ultimately redirecting it towards the player who was touted to be one of India’s brightest future prospects, have slowed down the panorama of India’s tennis at a time when the country is needing its talent coffers to bring about a change to the gloomy perspective it is currently witnessing.

“We are at the bottom rung of the ladder. There’s no answer why we have regressed in the last 30 years,” pointed out Vijay Amritraj, in his brief interaction with after the Chennai Open. Right as the two-time former Wimbledon and US Open quarter-finalist was in his observation about the imbalance gripping Indian tennis currently, it’s also necessary to note that seldom have Indian players opted out of representing the nation in Davis Cup ties, unlike other seasoned players, for whom Davis Cup participation often becomes a criteria for their Olympic participation.

The onus to adopt maturity thus not only rests on Nagal, but also on the sport’s administrators. In discussing his fallacies before the masses, the AITA and the outgoing team skipper have managed to send across a message that Nagal’s temperament isn’t suited to the team format. If left adrift, not only would the team lose out on a competent player – who did play his heart out in the much talked about fifth rubber against Marc Lopez in India’s tie against Spain last year – it would also be an unwise example to have been set regarding one error costing a player the entirety of his Davis Cup career.