Tennis in our country has been a mixed bag of euphoric flashes of achievement and morbid images of dissonance over the last few decades. There are a handful tennis achievers who have taken upon themselves to fix the state of the sport by influencing the association every now and then, but the recent obfuscation between AITA and some senior players is indicative of how deep the rot is.
AITA alleges that senior players, namely Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, refused to travel to Pakistan for the Davis Cup tie with India’s archrival. Though the ITF later on changed the venue to a neutral location, the association had already made up its mind about not taking Bhupathi as the non-playing captain. The communication could have been expressed in a better way, but this is not the first time that the dark side of tennis has been exposed to the country ahead of a major tournament—that some players continue to live in their past glories instead of the present decadence is a further cause of concern.
The AITA states that it is not right on the player’s part to pick and choose tournaments on the basis of convenience and discretion. According to the association, national duty cannot be left to trivialities such as venue and security. AITA says that many players were not comfortable going to Pakistan and once the venue was shifted they put themselves back in for selection. This is not going down the throats of those who care about the country and its image.
Can a soldier in the army pick and choose where he serves? Does he have that kind of luxury? And even if the players did not mean to dodge national duty, isn’t it their duty to get such clarifications noticed much before an issue is raked up?
Let’s take Sri Lanka for example and their recent trip to the volatile country of Pakistan. In 2009 the players were attacked and almost survived being killed by terrorists. Yet they chose to come back and play in the country and to top that beat the number one T20 team in their own backyard. Isn’t that a reward for serving your country? The idea or the emotion should have been to play in Pakistan and beat them in their country and thump your chest in pride after that. Not rue and cry that you are petrified of playing a game because it is Pakistan. How often will you get the chance of beating Pakistan in Pakistan?
For the association, it is best to rein in on the traditional hiccups that keep spurring up between them and the players. A thing or two can be learnt from the BCCI and how they have managed to run and control a bigger pool of players without much of a revolt every now and then. With the paucity of wins and achievements at a global level in tennis from India, the players too have to first earn their mettle before flaunting their ruse and that they are bigger than the nation or national duty is a matter of their convenience. It will be a good idea to remember that just like life, sports is a great leveller, of not only circumstances but pride as well.
Vineet Malhotra is a Consulting Editor and Prime Time Anchor with News X.