Government policy axes Sunitha, Shikha from Fed Cup team

January 2nd, 2009 - 9:43 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 2 (IANS) Tennis players Sunitha Rao and Shikha Uberoi became the first casuality of the government’s policy on player representation as they were dropped from the Indian Fed Cup squad which was announced Friday.Both Sunitha and Shikha, who were part of the team last year, are US passport holders. They have been excluded following the new government policy that now allows only Indian passport holders to represent the country.

The All India Tennis Association (AITA) selection committee named Sania Mirza, Ankita Bhambri, Sanaa Bhambri and Rushmi Chakravarthy for the Fed Cup Asia-Oceania Zone Group I tie in Perth from Feb 4-7. India have been clubbed with Australia, Korea, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, New Zealand and Uzbekistan.

Sunitha, ranked 197, is the second-highest ranked player in the country after Sania (101). She partnered Sania in the Beijing Olympics.

Isha Lakhani at 365 is the third Indian in the world rankings and was part of last year’s Fed Cup team but a bout of jaundice forced her to opt out.

Shikha, ranked 592, replaced an injured Tara Iyer in the team last year.

AITA’s executive director Ranbir Chauhan said they went by the government’s rule.

“As per the new policy, the two players could not be the part of the team. Otherwise I am sure Sunitha would have been there,’ Chauhan said.

Selection committee member Akhtar Ali recalled the 1974 Davis Cup final incident when the Indian team gave a walkover against South Africa because of the government’s apartheid policy.

“We were so close to win the Davis Cup but could not do anything because we had to follow the government’s policy. It is the same case here,” Ali, a former Davis Cup coach, said.

For Bhambri sisters, the news came as a surprise. Ankita has been a part of the Fed Cup team before, but she missed the cut last year because of a dip in her rankings, while for younger sister Sanaa it is been the first-time call for national duty.

Sanaa, ranked 480, admits expecting the call.

“After the whole citizenship issue, I had a feeling that I will be selected. I am quite thrilled and will to do my best,” she said.

The eight nations will be divided into two pools of four each in a round-robin format. The winners of each pool will play off with the winning team advancing to the World Group II Play-offs in April. The nations finishing fourth in each pool will play off with the losing nation being relegated to the Asia-Oceania Zone Group II in 2010.

There will be a one week coaching camp for the players from Jan 25-30 before their departure to Perth.

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