Revolt is a huge step forward for Indian tennis: Somdev
Somdev Devvarman has asserted that their collective refusal to play in Davis Cup does not potray India and its tennis players in bad light and the "revolt is one of the most remarkable things" that has happened in Indian sport.
Somdev also said that the young players have been "super unselfish" by joining his initiative as they risked several benefits.
AITA selected a third-string team to play against South Korea as 11 players including Somdev, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, dug their heels and said they will not represent the country unless AITA improves playing conditions.
"I completely disagree with that," was Somdev's emphatic reply when asked if their stance paints a poor picture of Indian tennis and its players.
"If you look at the past, Mahesh has represented India for 15 years and I have been playing for some years now. This is for the first time in Indian tennis in particular, that players have united for what they believe in. It's an incredible thing."
"Tennis is an individual game and it is not easy to get players together. There is a clear problem, that's why the players have come together. If you look it that way, it's a huge step forward for Indian tennis," he said.
Image: Somdev Devvarman
Photographs: Nick Laham/Getty Images
'Our young players have been unselfish'
Somdev said in the past the players were scared of raising issues as they would be denied wild cards, funds and benefits by irking the top bosses of AITA.
But now the players want things to change for good.
"Our young players have been unselfish. This is incredible to see them all on the same page. They know they are missing out on the chance of playing Davis Cup. But this would not have happened if there was no problem with AITA.
"Sacrifice they are making will help the future generations. The sport in general and Indian tennis will move forward," he said.
Somdev said they could have reconsidered their stand had AITA communicated its latest concessions through proper channel.
"The last time AITA wrote to us was on January 6. We were completely unaware of the statement they came up with in the media yesterday. How are we supposed to reconsider our decision then?" he questioned.
"I was very clear, that we want everything professionally before we took a stand," he said.
AITA has agreed to change support staff, increased players' share in prize money, nodded on consulting players while choosing surface, venue and the physiotherapist.The federation has also agreed to give business class airfare for even group level ties and also accommodated the demand to have six players in the side instead of four.
Image: Vishnu Vardhan
Photographs: Getty Images
'Our fight for improvement will not stop'
Somdev, however, said they are ready to play for India with new concessions but their fight for change in system will not stop.
"We are not happy. Not happy with the way AITA communicated to us. If they give us the same statement that they gave to media yesterday, yes we will reconsider our stand but our fight for improvement will not stop."
"We will always play for our country. We have always put country before ourselves."
Somdev said they have no reason to not play for India but the assurances have to be in writing from the AITA.
"Every single one of us is happy to play for India. We have earlier played and done well for our country. There is no reason to not do it for one tie. We have not been communicated at all. They just said casually, "ho jayega ho jayega". We are hearing this for long time," he said.
Image: Somdev Devvarman
Photographs: Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
'Goal is to have both the parties happy'
Somdev also shot down suggestions that that actually it was Bhupathi-inspired revolt and said all the young players are part of the initiative.
"Everybody is entitled to his opinion. If you see the mood in the camp, if you see the enthusiasm, young players have been very pro-active in responses. Younger players never had a platform. For me, at the end of the day, Indian tennis move forward. That's the way to move forward."
Somdev and co were ready to relent, he acknowledged that the final decision with regard to choice of support staff remains with AITA.
"We have always told them that we would like to have our inputs respected in a decision making process. I know as players, we do not take ultimate decisions but our inputs should be considered.
"In the past, I had no say as I was in the team for long time, but we were not considered. We were always overlooked. Now this change can happen only when all stand united. Goal is to have both the parties happy," he said.
Somdev has accused AITA of not being professional but when asked how their e-mail meant for AITA was available in the public domain, he replied, "Not one of the players has leaked any e-mail. Not one in my knowledge. These are all speculations. I have nothing to say on this."
Image: Somdev Devvarman