New Delhi: AITA`s efforts to rope in US-based Prakash Amritraj in the Davis Cup squad to negate a boycott threat from the top players came to a nought today with the Sports Ministry sticking to its policy that only Indian passport holders can represent the country.
In the wake of revolt by eight top players, including Somdev Devvarman, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna, the AITA was trying to bolster its line-up by including an in-form Amritraj in the squad for the South Korea tie, beginning February 1.
In December 2008, the ministry had formulated a policy on the participation of sportsperson in international events under which it had decided that only Indian citizens were eligible to represent the country.
That policy had rendered three Indian tennis players - Amritraj, Sunitha Rao and Neha Uberoi -- ineligible for national selection.
"We have issued a clarification to all the National Sports Federations (NSFs), saying that anybody who has Indian passport is eligible to play for India otherwise not. If Prakash Amritraj has Indian passport, he can play," Sports Secretary P K Deb told PTI.
At that time, Prakash, son of legendary Indian tennis player Vijay Amritraj, had opted to retain his American citizenship.
Prakash, who is coming back to competitive tennis after an injury, is in good form as he won four matches at the just-concluded Chennai Open.
His inclusion could have helped a beleaguered AITA, who will now be forced to field a depleted side if the eight players stuck its stand and remains unavailable.
AITA does not see the Ministry`s stance as a setback to their plans.
"I would see it this way, that we will not be able to avail Prakash Amritraj`s services. He is in form and in good shape. He is a much better player than he was two years ago and at the moment he`s better than many who we were considering for selection," AITA CEO Hironmoy Chatterjee told PTI.
AITA has given a deadline till tomorrow to the eight players to make themselves available for selection. AITA`s selection committee will meet on Friday to discuss the options available for them.
Now, veteran Leander Paes, world number three in doubles, is the only top player for AITA to choose.
If Somdev, Bhupathi, Bopanna, Yuki Bhambri, Sanam Singh, Vishnu Vardhan, Divij Sharan and Saketh Myneni remain unavailable, the national tennis federation will have to look at second-string players.
The next best available players are national hard court champion Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan, who is ranked 423, N Sriram Balaji (324), Ranjeet Virali-Murugesan (517), Vijayant Malik (542) and Purav Raja (155 in doubles).