Updated February 1st, 2024 at 13:50 IST

Zero buzz in Islamabad for high-profile India-Pakistan Davis Cup contest

Never has the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) received requests for passes for a Davis Cup match from regions as far as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, but the city of Islamabad is not giving the remotest of hints of hosting a high-profile India-Pakistan contest.

Indian tennis team in Pakistan for Davis Cup | Image:PTI

 Never has the Pakistan Tennis Federation (PTF) received requests for passes for a Davis Cup match from regions as far as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan, but the city of Islamabad is not giving the remotest of hints of hosting a high-profile India-Pakistan contest.

Nothing, not even a single poster, in this beautiful city suggests that an Indian team has crossed the border for a Davis Cup match after 60 long years.

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The Islamabad Sports Complex, the venue for the World Group I match, is not giving any buzz either, and the sprawling complex is out of bounds even for local media.

The PTF has pinned hopes of revival of the sport in the country on this tie but the promotion of the match through branding, advertisement, marketing and interviews is woefully lacking.

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In a nutshell, the excitement and atmosphere, which is usually attached with an India-Pakistan match, is missing.

To top it, only 500 guests and fans will be inside the complex Saturday and Sunday, the match days.

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The entry will be on invitation, and PTF is picking only a niche tennis audience to attend.

The stiffness of security is such that the Indian players will not be able to enjoy Pakistani hospitality. They have access just to the venue and the team hotel as the city will remain out of bounds for them.

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With the security agencies keeping a tight watch on the Indians, they cannot even go to the nearby shopping mall, let alone paying a visit to the famous Margala Hill.

“We would have made it a grand show for the Indian contingent but are forced to keep it as a low-key affair,” a key PTF official told PTI when asked why the buzz is missing. “It has to be like that because of the security concerns raised by the Indian Federation. ITF has approved a plan, and we have to follow that.

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We would have splashed the city with the posters of the players from India and Pakistan but our hands are tied." PTF treasurer Muhammad Khalil Chugtai also lamented the fact that the tie is being played in a very restrictive environment.

“If the Indian team had come through the Wagah border, we would have organised a grand welcome event at Wagah itself,” he said.

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“In 2017, Iran also raised security concerns, and accordingly security arrangements were made. Eventually, they themselves got fed up with being stuck in a hotel.” India's concerns ================= The AITA had requested the ITF to shift the tie out of Pakistan, saying the players will face security threats.

It had reasoned that Kashmir Day is on February 4, the second day of the tie, and it could cause some problems but the AITA got the date wrong since Kashmir Day falls on February 5, which is a public holiday.

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The AITA also said the General Elections in Pakistan, scheduled for February 8, are close to the matches and it feared for pre-poll violence.

AITA also said that India and Pakistan have been on opposite sides in the Israel-Palestine conflict, and it could pose a security threat to its players in that country.

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However, the Davis Cup Committee rejected AITA's appeal, and later the ITF Tribunal also ruled that the Indian team is not likely to face any security issues.

“However, to ensure that the tie passes without an incident, tight security arrangements are in place. ITF has told us to keep it a low-key affair. That's why you are not seeing any excitement or buzz.

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“But we have received requests from KPK, Baloch and even Southern Punjab for passes. People want to come and see an India-Pakistan match.

Earlier we used to get requests from Lahore maximum. There is interest within the tennis fraternity but we can't promote the tie much,” said Asim Shafik, a key official looking after arrangements for the tie.

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“For us it is about eyeballs. If 10,000 people watch and even if 100 parents enrol their kids to learn tennis, that will be good," he added.

Practice delayed ============ The overnight rain delayed the start of India's practice session by two hours on Thursday but the players still came out to see courts.

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“What more to do in the hotel. It's better to be out in the sun now,” said a player, summing up the mood. 

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Published February 1st, 2024 at 13:50 IST