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Paes to lead second-string India team after players' revolt

India's tennis player Leander Paes speaks during an interview with Reuters at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA) stadium in New Delhi
India's tennis player Leander Paes speaks during an interview with Reuters at the Delhi Lawn Tennis Association (DLTA) stadium in New Delhi

By Sudipto Ganguly

MUMBAI (Reuters) - Leander Paes will spearhead a second-string Indian team in the home Davis Cup tie against South Korea next month following a revolt by the country's frontline players.

Eight top players, excluding 13-times grand slam doubles champion Paes, had submitted a list of demands to the All India Tennis Association (AITA) with a threat to snub the regional first round tie in New Delhi from February 1-3.

The AITA agreed to most of the demands but it was not enough to convince the disgruntled players including multiple doubles grand slam champion Mahesh Bhupathi, Somdev Devvarman and Rohan Bopanna who made themselves unavailable for the tie.

AITA chief executive Hironmoy Chatterjee said the federation had extended the Thursday deadline to Friday noon but the players did not commit to playing in the team event.

"We gave them the opportunity to reconsider their stand. We tried everything, what more could we do?" Chatterjee told Reuters by phone. "We did our best."

The AITA had agreed to the demands for a new coach, a higher share of prize money and the players' involvement in the choice of venues for ties but rejected a request to change the captain and decided to retain S.P. Misra to lead the team against South Korea.

"We agreed to give them business class airfare, we also agreed to give them a team of six. What more? We tried everything," Chatterjee said of the last-minute efforts to convince the players.

"We also agreed to name the team physiotherapist in consultation with the players."

VM Ranjeet, Vijayant Malik and Purav Raja, who are all ranked outside the top 500 in singles, will now partner doubles specialist Paes against South Korea while Ashwin Vijayaraghavan and Arjun Kadhe were named as the reserve players.

"It was made clear to the players that as far as captain and coach is concerned this responsibility vests with the association and it will be the association which will decide the name of the captain as well as the coach," the AITA said in a statement.

In a joint statement, the players criticized the AITA's team selection and said they will continue to sit out.

"We are disappointed to note that instead of engaging in discussion with us, the AITA has selected an inexperienced team to represent the country in this crucial Davis Cup fixture," the players said.

"The AITA's position reiterates and reaffirms our stand, and we are constrained to state that, unfortunately, we will be unavailable to represent the country until such time that the AITA engages with us in good faith."

(Editing by Pritha Sarkar)

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