Playing his farewell season on the tennis circuit, veteran Leander Paes has retained his place in the six-member Davis Cup squad picked for the World Group qualifier tie against Croatia next month.

India are scheduled to travel to Croatia for their next tie on March 6 and 7.

The All India Tennis Association has also asked Rohit Rajpal to lead the side in the 2020 season, PTI reported on Thursday.

In another development on Thursday, Paes also confirmed his participation in the Bangalore Open ATP Challenger, beginning on February 10.

Paes, who is into his farewell season, could well be playing his final event on home soil at the $162,000 event at the KSLTA.

“Playing at home in front of my fellow Indians has always been a source of immense pleasure and motivation for me. Bangalore has always had a crowd that understands tennis and the vibe of the stadium and the energy of the city really invigorate me,” said Paes, who is currently playing at the TATA Maharashtra ATP Tour event in Pune.

The 46-year-old veteran has 54 ATP Tour doubles titles besides eight Grand Slam men’s doubles crowns and 10 Grand Slam mixed doubles titles. Paes also won a historic bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

Rajpal retained as captain of the season

As for the Davis Cup squad, Rajpal had taken over as captain of the side last year when country’s top players and then captain Mahesh Bhupathi had refused to travel to Pakistan in November.

Rajpal, who is also DLTA President, confirmed the development to the PTI.

“I have been informed that I will continue as captain for the 2020 season. I feel honoured that AITA has reposed faith in me,” Rajpal said.

“I am happy with the way we came together for Pakistan tie under difficult circumstances. We came together as one fighting machine. I am looking forward to working closely with the players for achieving greater heights,” he added.

Rajpal admitted that his real test has come now since the team is up against a formidable Croatia, who are packed with world-class performers.

“I know they are 2018 winners. This is a tough tie, they have home advantage but we can soak all the pressure and still beat any top team,” he said.

As expected, India No 1 Prajnesh Gunnewaran has returned to the side after missing the Pakistan tie. Sumit Nagal and Ramkumar Ramanathan are the other singles players in the six-man squad.

The AITA selection committee, headed by Balram Singh, chose three doubles players for the tie including Rohan Bopanna, Divij Sharan and Paes.

The playing five-member squad will be announced closer to the tie.

Both Bopanna and Sharan had not played against Pakistan in Nur Sultan. While Bopanna was injured, Sharan was busy with his wedding reception.

With both of them returning, the selection panel has left out Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan.

Both Nedunchezhiyan (105) and Purav Raja (91) are ranked above Paes in the ATP list.

“We could not have taken all, who played against Pakistan though they raised their hands up in the difficult situation. Leander is playing well, he just beat Divij (in Pune). The ranking was not the sole criteria. Paes’ reflexes are still good and he is moving well,” Balram told PTI.

Rajpal said they will consider form and fitness near the tie and the best side will be fielded.

India’s preliminary Davis Cup squad: Prajnesh Gunneswaran, Sumit Nagal, Ramkumar Ramanathan, Rohan Bopanna, Divij Sharan and Leander Paes.

Captain: Rohit Rajpal

Coach: Zeeshan Ali

(With PTI inputs)