ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) will appeal the International Tennis Federation (ITF) decision to shift this month’s Davis Cup tie against India to a neutral venue from Islamabad, its president Salim Saifullah said on Tuesday.
Tennis’ world governing body said on Monday that its independent security advisors had advised to shift the November 29-30 Asia/Oceania Group I tie following a security review amid political tensions between the bitter neighbours.
The tie was earlier scheduled for September 14-15 in Islamabad but was postponed to November after high tension between Pakistan and India over Kashmir. In August, India revoked the special status of the part of Kashmir that it administers.
“We are upset, we will register our protest, this decision has disappointed us,” Saifullah told Dawn on Tuesday. “The ITF has shifted the tie while citing security issues but it hasn’t given a specific reason.
“As far as the Kashmir situation is concerned, it is India which has imposed a curfew there which has raised tensions. But it doesn’t mean that we should be deprived of hosting sporting events. Sports has nothing to do with politics.
Saifullah, however, added that if the ITF wasn’t going to review its decision, the PTF was already looking at “options like Thailand, Uzbekistan, Sri Lanka and Turkey” to host the match.
The PTF will have to act fast. Announcing its decision, the ITF said that the PTF had five business days to nominate its neutral venue.
“Following a review of the latest advice given by the ITF’s independent security advisors, the Davis Cup Committee has taken the decision that the Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group I tie between Pakistan and India on 29-30 November 2019, must be played at a neutral venue,” the ITF said in a statement.
“The ITF and Davis Cup Committee’s first priority has always been the safety of athletes, officials and spectators and the decision was made on this basis. As per the Davis Cup Regulations, the Pakistan Tennis Federation now has the choice to nominate a neutral venue and has five working days to confirm their proposed venue. The venue will be announced once the choice has been submitted and approved.”
The ITF decision left many current and former Pakistan Davis Cuppers dismayed. And it comes despite the PTF having held several international events in Islamabad over the last few years.
“Really shocking, embarrassing, disgraceful, sad and unfair decision by ITF to hold this Davis Cup tie on neutral venue,” Pakistan’s star player Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi wrote on Twitter. “Once again Pakistan is getting penalised for someone else actions. To me it’s an absolute discrimination at every level.”
Former Davis Cupper Hameed-ul-Haq said the ITF had hurt sentiments of an expectant country.
“The moment ITF had postponed it, I knew they were going to shift it to a neutral venue,” he told Dawn. “The ITF under influence of India directed PTF to shift the venue, which is a disgrace and injustice.
“India was coming to Pakistan after 54 long years as last time we hosted them was in 1964. But the ITF has deprived Pakistani tennis lovers of watching some great tennis.”
Former Davis Cupper Mushaf Zia, the designated non-playing captain of the Pakistan, said it was beyond him why the tie was shifted.
“Pakistan is a safe country, where sporting events are regularly taking place,” he told Dawn. “There are no question marks over security here.”
The ITF decision, meanwhile, was welcomed on the other side of the border.
“We are very happy and welcome the ITF decision about the venue change,” All India Tennis Association (AITA) General Secretary Hironmoy Chatterjee was quoted as saying by Reuters. “We will wait for the PTF to choose the venue and then name our team.”
Indian captain and multiple doubles Grand Slam winner Mahesh Bhupathi called it a “sensible decision”.
“I think it’s just a sensible decision with the current situation,” Bhupathi was quoted as saying. “Davis Cup is already a high pressure situation and having additional stress on security issues was not ideal for anyone.”
Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2019