Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

AITA and politicians

The role of politicians in the controversy surrounding the selection of tennis players for London Olympics has not been debated much. The debate has been mostly about players and AITA.

AITA selectors picked Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupati for men’s doubles. Mahesh refused. He should have been banned for life for refusing to play for India and asked to refund the amount spent on him. That would have sent a message to all players that AITA will not tolerate players dictating terms to AITA. AITA did not do that. They selected Rohan Bopanna. Rohan also refused. Mahesh and Rohan wanted to play as a pair and said two teams could be sent.

AITA wanted to send one team because there are no two teams. There are three top doubles players. Leander being No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 player had to play with him. Since Mahesh and Rohan both refused AITA wanted to drop them and select someone else to play with Leander.

At this time sports minister Ajay Maken interfered and took the side of Mahesh and Bopanna. AITA officials met Ajay. They should have been clear that they will not send two teams. Instead they presented five options one of them being sending two teams. Ajay justified his interference saying government gives money to AITA. Then he said AITA will decide. Then S. M. Krishna, external affairs minister and honorary president of AITA, interfered.

Leander said he would withdraw if Mahesh and Bhupati are sent as a pair but pair with Vishnu Vardhan if they are the only pair. On 20/6/2012 around 11 p.m. Anil Khanna, president of AITA, said only one team will be sent and Leander being the best will play.

Something changed after that. Next day Anil Khanna said two men’s doubles teams will be sent and Leander will partner Sania Mirza if she got wild card. Leander wanted written commitment from Sania that she will partner him. He was not happy about two teams and did not confirm participation.

Political pressure made AITA change its decision. Anil Khanna should resign as president. Selectors should resign. The country is greater than Olympic medals. No tennis player or team should be sent to Olympics.

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