LONDON: The upcoming Davis Cup tie between hosts Pakistan and India at Islamabad next month has been postponed to November under “exceptional circumstances” after a security review, the International Tennis Federation (ITF) said on Thursday.
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) had last week written to the game’s world body asking them to shift the September 14-15 Asia/Oceania Group I tie to a neutral venue or postpone it until political tensions simmer down between the bitter neighbours.
Relations between the neighbours are badly strained after India revoked the special autonomy status of Kashmir, which the nuclear-armed rivals have fought two wars over since gaining independence from Britain in 1947.
“Following an in-depth security review of the current situation in Pakistan by independent expert security advisors, the Davis Cup Committee has taken the decision to postpone the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I tie,” ITF said in a statement.
“The committee concluded that this is an exceptional circumstance while the first priority of the ITF is the safety and security of athletes, officials and spectators.
“The tie has been rescheduled for November, with the exact dates to be confirmed by the Committee no later than September. 9.”
The ITF, which had earlier shared security arrangements for the Indian team with the AITA and was satisfied, said it would continue to monitor the situation in Pakistan and the Davis Cup Committee would re-examine the security situation ahead of the tie.
Indian captain Mahesh Bhupathi, whose six-member squad had sought safety guarantees from the ITF before travelling to Islamabad, welcomed the decision to postpone the tie.
“We are happy and we are hopeful the situation will normalise by then,” Bhupathi said.
AITA General Secretary Hironmoy Chatterjee echoed the former player’s views, saying: “We’re extremely happy that the Davis Cup committee considered our request.
“We are hoping that the situation will improve and settle down within two months and it will be conducive to go and play. As of now it was not right to go and play in Pakistan because of the political situation.”
Pakistan has downgraded diplomatic ties with India amid a military lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir.
India cut bilateral cricket ties with Pakistan after deadly attacks in Mumbai in 2008 that authorities blamed on Pakistani militants, with just one limited-overs tour in 2012-13.
An Indian tennis team last travelled to Pakistan in 1964 for a Davis Cup tie, defeating the hosts 4-0, while Pakistan lost 3-2 on their last visit to India in 2006.
Pakistan was forced to host Davis Cup ties at neutral venues for more than a decade as teams refused to travel to the country because of security concerns.
They played their first home tie after a gap of 12 years against Iran in 2017, while Hong Kong was relegated and fined by the ITF after they refused to travel to Pakistan the same year.
Published in Dawn, August 23rd, 2019