Mahesh Bhupathi says he does not mind being fired as the Indian Davis Cup team’s captain but what is unacceptable to him is the tennis federation’s allegation that he refused national duty.
Bhupathi, one of the most successful players in India’s tennis history, insisted that he never made himself unavailable for the Pakistan tie, which has now been shifted out of Islamabad by the ITF due to security concerns.
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) chose former Davis Cupper Rohit Rajpal as Bhupathi’s successor.
“I am not going to sit back after winning 12 Grand Slams and playing for country for 25 years to allow someone to say I am fired because I did not show up for national duty,” a fuming Bhupathi told PTI in an exclusive interview.
“I don’t mind being fired. They can say it’s time for a new captain. But nobody can say that I refused national duty. I genuinely thought it’s unsafe to travel to Pakistan which the ITF has validated. So, they are going to penalise me and players for this, it’s not going to work.”
Bhupathi, whose tenure as captain began in Bengaluru in April 2017 with a tie against Uzbekistan, said AITA did not have the courtesy to inform him that he won’t continue as captain.
“I need some form of communication from AITA that I am not the captain anymore. I have not heard anything from them except that since Rohit is fine to travel to Islamabad and I am not, they will take him for this tie. And this was hours before the neutral venue was announced.”
However, when contacted, AITA secretary general Hironmoy Chatterjee said he did call Bhupathi to inform him about the change in captaincy.
“I personally called him on the evening of November 4 to inform that we have opted for a new captain,” Chatterjee claimed.
Bhupathi insisted that the communication to him was that Rajpal was being appointed just for the tie in Islamabad as he was unavailable and it was never conveyed that he was being removed for good.
“I have personally been involved with the sport at a macro level in India. Be it the Mittal Champions Trust or JSW’s IIS. I have raised money for Karman Kaur (Thandi), Sumit (Nagal).
“If these guys (AITA) don’t want me, I can disconnect but don’t tell the country that I did not show up for national duty. That’s unacceptable.”
Arguing his case further, Bhupathi said it defies logic that AITA first announced him as captain for the tie against Pakistan, involved him in selection discussions followed by deliberations with the ITF before suddenly announcing his sacking.
“The easiest way to fire me was when we lost to Italy (in February this year). They could have said I did not take the team to World Group so they are firing me. Why have they fired me just before the ITF meeting? There is no logic.”