Ramkumar Ramanathan was on Sunday named in a five-member squad for the grass court challenge against Pakistan — a clear sign that an Indian Davis Cup side is preparing to play on Pakistan soil for the first time in 60 years even as AITA awaits ITF tribunal’s decision on its appeal against travel to neighbouring nation on security concerns. India last travelled to Pakistan way back in 1964 when they beat the hosts 4-0.
India have never lost to Pakistan in the Davis Cup competition in eight ties against each other.
Ramkumar, whose serve and volley game style suits the grass surface, will lead the squad that includes N Sriram Balaji, Yuki Bhambri, Niki Poonacha and Saketh Myneni as All India Tennis Association (AITA) on Sunday named the team for the February 3-4 World Group I play-off tie.
The team has only Ramkumar and 2019 national champion as singles players while the three others now play only doubles on the ATP Tour.
It will not be a surprise if captain Rohit Rajpal asks Bhambri to play the singles. Balaji can also be asked to play one of the singles.
Digvijay Pratap Singh, who made his debut against Morocco in India’s last Davis Cup assignment in Lucknow in September, has been named as a reserve player in the squad.
India’s top players Sumit Nagal and Sasikumar Mukund have pulled out of the tie, where the winning team will ensure its stay in World Group I for the rest of the 2024 season.
India had requested ITF to relocate the tie to a neutral venue but the ITF Davis Cup Committee had rejected the appeal.
“We have appealed against the Davis Cup committee decision and a final call will be taken by the ITF tribunal on December 19. If the tribunal also rejects the appeal we will then travel to Pakistan,” AITA Secretary General Anil Dhupar told PTI.
Asked if the government will grant the Indian squad permission to travel to Pakistan, Dhupar said,”It’s a World Cup of tennis and the government is likely to allow travel in this case.” “Only one month is left for the tie and the selected players need to know the schedule so that they can plan their ATP engagements, that’s why we have announced the team. Whether we are asked by ITF to travel to Pakistan or we go to a neutral venue is a different matter, the team had to be picked.” India were drawn to meet Pakistan in Pakistan in 2019 also but the ITF had moved the tie to Kazakshtan on AITA’s request and India emerged winner with an emphatic 4-0 margin.
Pakistan’s top players had then pulled out of the tie in protest against AITA’s decision to not travel to their country. Pakistan fielded rookie players who were no match to India’s strong team.
The Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) has already made it clear that it will not field its team if the ITF decides to shift the tie to a neutral venue again.