Indian sports fraternity slams Australia’s Davis Cup pullout


New Delhi : Tennis Australia (TA) Saturday decided to pull out of the Davis Cup tie against India in Chennai, sparking strong reactions from the All India Tennis Association (AITA), Indian sportspersons and officials.

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TA announced that it will not send its team to play the Davis Cup tie in Chennai May 8-10 because of security concerns. Australia risks a one-year ban from the competition and a $100,000 fine, after the International Tennis Federation (ITF) board’s rejection of its appeal to move the tie out of India.

“The ITF decision has left us with no other option. We cannot send the team, it is extremely disappointing. It would be irresponsible of us to send our players into an area of such high risk. The Davis Cup is very important to us but some things are more important than tennis,” TA president Geoff Pollard said in a statement.

“We asked for the tie to be moved because we have major security concerns for the players, particularly during the election,” said Pollard.

With India set to host major sporting events in next couple of years including the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) and sports ministry allayed security fears, saying the TA pullout was was an “isolated” case and would not portray the country as unsafe.

“There is no justification for Australia not to play in Chennai. We are fully conscious of security concerns. The state and central governments had assured them of complete security,” Sports Minister M.S. Gill said.

The home ministry added: “The tournament is about one visiting team, one small stadium and three days. India is completely safe and foolproof security will be provided.”

India will be hosting major sporting events – badminton World Championship (2009), hockey World Cup and AFC Challenge Cup before the Commnwealth Games (CWG) in Delhi next year.

IOA secretary general Randhir Singh called on other countries to see the “larger picture”. He also asked the ITF to take stringent action against TA for defying the apex body.

“Australia’s decision is not a setback for 2010 CWG. You cannot club India with Pakistan. There is no such danger looming here as projected by TA. If that is the case, then security around the world is a problem.

“ITF had declared the venue safe and Australia should have followed it. ITF should impose a heavy penalty on Australia for taking such an irresponsible decision,” Randhir Singh told IANS.

AITA secretary-general Anil Khanna termed Australia’s decision “irresponsible and arrogant”.

“ITF in its security report said India is absolutely safe and Chennai is a wonderful city to host the tie. Even after such a positive report from the ITF, it reflects Australia’s certain amount of arrogance as an important tennis nation,” a livid Khanna told reporters here.

Khanna said TA’s decision shows lack of understanding of the security situation in India.

“Australia have reacted similarly in the past when they refused to send a team for the junior event in Indonesia after blasts in Bali six years ago.”

One of reasons cited by the Australians is the security concern during the general elections. Khanna rubbished the claims and questioned Australia’s commitment to Davis Cup.

Randhir, who is also the secretary general of Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), sounded confident that the Australian decision will not impact other major events.

“OCA president Sheikh Ahmad Al Sabah was here in Delhi just two days back and he backed India to host the Asian Games in 2018. I am sure other nations will see the larger picture.”

Indian tennis veteran Leander Paes, who forms the doubles pair in the Davis Cup with Mahesh Bhupathi, called it an “extreme step”.

“It is extremely disappointing that Australia has decided not to come to Chennai. The ITF has examined the facilities and declared the venue safe. The safe conduct of Chennai Open this January and the assurances of the TN (Tamil Nadu) government should have been guarantee enough.”

Former Davis Cupper Naresh Kumar and Akhtar Ali said Australia’s move should not set a precedent for other countries.

“They have made a mountain out of a molehill. Tell me any place in world that is safe. Bombs are going off in London and other places as well,” said Naresh.

Indian cricket board’s Chief Administrative Officer Ratnakar Shetty expressed surprise that Australia cited shifting of Indian Premier League (IPL) to South Africa as one of the reason for the pullout. He pointed out that the IPL was a five-week multi-city tournament, while the Davis Cup tie was a three-day affair in one stadium.

“Tennis Australia’s decision was more perplexing, considering the fact that the England cricket team played a Test in Chennai soon after 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

“When England could play a Test match in Chennai for five days, why can’t a three-day Davis Cup tie be played there,” he asked, recalling the excellent security arrangements made by Tamil Nadu government for the Test.