THE International Tennis Federation’s decision to delay next month’s Davis Cup Asia Oceania Group I tennis tie between Pakistan and India to November has come as a big setback to the hosts who had been looking forward to staging the landmark contest in Islamabad. Citing “exceptional circumstances” for the postponement — a euphemism for escalating border tensions between the two neighbours — the ITF insists that its first priority remains the security and safety of the players, officials and spectators. Unlike cricket’s governing body, the ICC, which rarely shows any spine on contentious issues and is easily influenced by some quarters, the ITF deserves a lot of credit for not bowing to repeated requests and demands from the All India Tennis Association to shift the Davis Cup tie from Islamabad to a neutral venue. In July, too, the ITF security team that toured Pakistan to inspect the venue and security arrangements amid constant pressure from India to shift the tie, gave its wholehearted clearance to Islamabad and has not budged from that position to date.
Islamabad has always been a secure city for sporting events, and the Pakistan Tennis Federation has hosted no less than five Davis Cup ties in recent times, including against Iran and South Korea. India’s tendency to mix sports and politics — especially in the case of Pakistan — is most unfortunate. There have been countless occasions when India has backed out of firm commitments to play matches in Pakistan, something that has dismayed fans on both sides of the border. This time, however, India is well aware that an Indian boycott of the Davis Cup tie would lead to a Pakistan walkover, and the ITF’s tough stance has deterred the arch-rivals to cross that line. It is regrettable that matters should have come to this pass, especially considering that not too long ago, Pakistan’s Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi and India’s Rohan Bopanna were doubles partners. India should recognise that politicising sports only deepens distrust and acrimony.
Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2019