Appointed Davis Cup captain for the tie against Pakistan, Rohit Rajpal minced no words as he spoke to the media for the first time since the decision and subsequent controversy over Mahesh Bhupathi’s comments over his removal. Rajpal said, "I was asked and I said yes without any conditions. For me, if I play with a racquet or I'm asked to go to the border with a gun, I will never say no for anything for the country. I’m not sure why some people are being disparaging about me. I have done nothing wrong. I did not vie for this position, I was asked. And I agreed to go to Pakistan even as others said no."
Speaking to Republic TV, Rajpal defended the AITA for its decision to remove Bhupathi, who had refused to travel to Pakistan for the tie, hours before the ITF changed the venue to a neutral one. ‘I will not say that is was unfair to him, but it was unfortunate. AITA was trying to convince ITF but till the very end of the deadline, there was no sign from them that they will change the venue. I wish Mahesh had agreed to go then none of this would have happened. But we all have our concerns and that is fine.’
The stand-in captain has an unenviable job of now selecting the team in a circumstance where some had made themselves unavailable for the tie in Pakistan while others had readily agreed to go despite security concerns. While the AITA did not say it openly, it did imply that someone like Leander Paes, who agreed to go (despite being sidelined for two previous ties) can now not be kept out of the team. Similarly, while the likes of Rohan Bopanna may be crucial for the team, those who made themselves available unlike him can also not be ignored under the circumstances.
‘We will consider everyone who makes themselves available afresh. Let things settle down because Pakistan has appealed the ITF decision. Once the venue and surface are clear, I will speak to the selection team again and we will ask players to make themselves available again. For us national interest is supreme and all sides will understand that.’
A lot of speculation has been growing though if Bhupathi will ever be considered as non-playing captain again. Players like Bopanna and Somdev Devvarman have backed the former doubles icon in the latest row with AITA, calling the decision to remove him unfair especially now that the tie is shifted.
On this Rajpal said, ‘Never say never. The AITA is always very open. All of our icons should and will be used at any time they can contribute to the country.’ But he did add that repeated controversies were certainly not helping the image of both the association and the players and agreed that there was a trust deficit especially amongst the players given their open statements against AITA. ‘My humble request is that we should all work together collaboratively.’