India coach Zeeshan Ali on Friday questioned why Pakistan did not boycott their earlier matches at neutral venues as top players Aisam-ul-haq Qureshi and Aqeel Khan backed out of the Davis Cup tie against India.
After much suspense over the venue for the Asia/Oceania tie, the International Tennis Federation moved the matches out of Islamabad on November 4. The decision did not go down well with the top Pakistan players and they decided not to compete in Nur-Sultan against India.
The Pakistan Tennis Federation was left with no option but to pick its junior players, offering the tie to India on a platter. “I feel Aisam and Aqeel just overreacted by deciding not to play this tie. They did not need to do it. It’s the ITF which moved the tie out of Islamabad, though we had our reasons to request ITF the same,” Zeeshan Ali was quoted as saying by PTI. He added, “You can not have a tie when the players are packed in a bus and escorted by some 40 armoured vehicles. Is that a suitable environment for sport?”
Since 2017, Pakistan hosted four Davis Cup teams and Hong Kong was the only team that decided against travelling to Islamabad. “What about previous ties? Why did the teams not travel there? We would also played but ITF also felt that it was a good decision to move the tie of Pakistan. And why Aisam and Aqeel did not boycott when their other ties were moved out of their country? Why this particular tie?” Zeeshan said.
In the absence of top players, Pakistan has fielded its junior players. Teenagers Huzaifa Abdul Rehman and Shoaib Khan will now lead their challenge. They two 17 year-olds ranked 446 and 1004 respectively in the junior ITF ranking list. Even with top players, Pakistan was not a match to India and now it’s has become a completely lop-sided tie in India’s favour.
Will an easy win give India satisfaction? “We wanted a good tie but what can we do if their top players are not coming? A win is a win, irrespective of the players fielded by a nation,” said India skipper Rohit Rajpal.
“We were even ready to go to Pakistan. What else we can do? The conditions will be very harsh in Nur Sultan. I don’t remember when India last played in such extreme conditions when the temperature is minus 25,” he added.
Ali said countering such conditions won’t be easy. “The body takes longer to reach the optimum level in such weather conditions. You don’t even know that you have pulled your muscle even after 20 minutes into practice. So proper warm-up and proper cool down can’t be compromised,” he said. “That’s why we are taking two physios with us,” added Rajpal.