New Delhi: In a departure from the current formula for sharing the Davis Cup prize money, non-playing captain Mahesh Bhupathi and coach Zeeshan Ali were allowed by the AITA to claim a share from the players' prize purse from the Canada tie.
Till the World Group Play-off tie against Canada last September, the prize money was distributed only among only six players including the two reserves while the support staff was paid directly by the All India Tennis Association (AITA). However, the prize purse for the Canada tie was distributed equally among six players along with the captain and the coach, which means the players' share was reduced.
Each of the eight people got a little more than Rs one lakh. AITA secretary general Hironmoy Chatterjee confirmed the equal distribution and said it was done after Bhupathi put forth a proposal. "The distribution was done after the captain discussed with the players and took this call. So it was the players' call," Chatterjee told PTI.
It is a move which hits the singles players the most since as per the previous arrangement, their share was maximum from the prize purse. Therefore, there is a possibility that for future ties, the players may devise a new formula, which does not reduce their share drastically.
Asked for the reasons behind the new distribution model, Bhupathi said he actually wanted the prize money to be shared equally by 10 people, including the two physios since they keep the entire unit healthy, but AITA did not accept that proposal. The governing body only agreed to include the captain and the coach.
Bhupathi also insists that players will not get affected by it. "We thought about it (players share getting reduced) but since there are moving parts with number of players for zone 1 and World Group, it (money) remains the same as before," Bhupathi told PTI.
Asked to explain what is a moving part, Bhupathi said,"sometimes there is a five-member team and sometimes there is four." However, for the last few years, AITA has always announced a six-member squad, while reserve players also get paid.
For a Group tie, all six players get a guaranteed 12.5 per cent and 5 percent is paid for every match played. According to that format, if Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan played two singles matches, they get 22.5 per cent each. (12.5 guaranteed and 5 per cent each for playing singles and reverse singles).
The doubles players, say Rohan Bopanna and Purav Raja, got 15 per cent each (12.5 guaranteed and they split 5 per cent for the doubles match). Reserve players get only the guaranteed 12.5 percent.
With equal distribution coming into play, Yuki and Ramkumar got a little more than a lakh each for the Canada tie where they could have earned close to Rs 2 lakh each according to previous formula. AITA has now left it to the players and captain to decide which arrangement they want to continue with, whether they want equal distribution like the Canada tie or previous arrangement should continue.
An AITA official said they are not bothered how the money is split. "Our payout remains the same, so it won't make any difference to us. We divide it among six or eight, it does not affect us," said the official.
It has also been learnt that AITA has not spoken to any of the players on the matter to seek their opinion and is communicating with only the captain. "We have told the captain clearly that we will enforce a five-year locking period for the arrangement. We don't want a change in formula after every tie. Now it's up to them to decide what they want," added the official.
The players understand that support staff is not paid a handsome sum by the AITA but also feel that it's unfair on them to further split their share from the prize purse. None of the players, though, spoke on the issue.
According to the arrangement, whatever funds AITA get from the ITF, the federation gives 100 percent to the players for the away ties but keeps 30 per cent for the home ties to meet its own expenses. It was former India player Somdev Devvarman, who had played a crucial role in getting the Davis Cup playing conditions improved in 2013 when he led a revolt against AITA and boycotted the tie against Korea along with 10 other players.
AITA had fielded a second-string team for the Korea tie but eventually agreed on most of the demands. The national federation had agreed to increase players' share in Davis Cup prize money, replaced SP Misra with Anand Amritraj as captain and also agreed to consult players for choice of venue and surface for the home ties.
AITA had also agreed to provide business class airfare for Asia/Oceania Group ties, a squad of six players and appointment of team physiotherapist in consultation with the players. The only demand they had rejected was inclusion of players' representative in the selection committee.
Somdev, who was one of the fittest players India has seen, is now national observer for the game of tennis.