AITA) decision to ban Mahesh Bhupathi from Davis Cup duty till June, 2014, has virtually ended the veteran player's career as an Indian player in the premier international tennis team tournament for men.
On Saturday, AITA's executive committee decided to keep both Bhupathi and his doubles partner Rohan Bopanna out of the Indian team till June, 2014. They had not been chosen by the AITA selectors for home tie against New Zealand, which concluded today (September 16).
AITA secretary-general Bharat Oza, in a statement, said: "It is further decided not to consider Mahesh Bhupathi and Rohan Bopanna for selection to play for India till June 30, 2014."
"AITA is not in a position to impose ban on any player. It's a kind of disciplinary action to send across a message to players, who aspire to play for India that we will not tolerate this," Oza said at a press conference on Sunday.
Bhupathi, who is 38, might never play for India again, in Davis Cup. By the time ban is lifted, he will be 40. It is highly unlikely that AITA will look back at Bhupathi in 2014. And it is not sure how many more competitive years are left in Bhupathi.
To add to that, the young team which was picked to play in the Asia/Oceania Group I relegation play-off against New Zealand, completed a 5-0 rout on Sunday. AITA wants to stick with the same combination.
AITA's action comes after Bhupathi and Bopanna had revolted against the country's top tennis body. Bhupathi had refused to partner Leander Paes for the London Olympics and wanted to be sent to the Games with Bopanna as one team.
They got through their way and AITA had to change their original decision of sending only one doubles team of Bhupathi and Paes. Instead, there were two teams from India. Bhupathi and Bopanna as one combination and Vishnu Vardhan/Paes pair.
Both pairs tumbled out of the initial rounds of the competition. Bhupathi and Bopanna's claims that they had the best chance of winning an Olympic medal was proved wrong.
Bhupathi has represented India in Davis Cup, Asian Games and Olympics. In 2001, he was honoured with Padma Shri for his achievements. One of the top tennis players India has ever produced, Bhupathi will now have to be content with playing in Grand Slams and other ATP tournaments.
Unless AITA changes its stance and reinstates Bhupathi in the Indian team, the curtains have already come down on this fine player's career as Indian team member.
Since 1995, Bhupathi has played 55 Davis Cup matches for India. In those he won 35 and lost 20. He managed to be victorious in only eight singles matches while most of his successes came in doubles, partnering Paes. He won 27 doubles clashes and lost only six.
Bhupathi's last Davis Cup appearance was in September 2011 (World Group play-off) when he teamed up with Bopanna and won against Japanese duo of Tatsuma Ito and Yuichi Sugita in Tokyo.
For AITA's decision, Bhupathi (@Maheshbhupathi) tweeted: "The cranky old grand fathers on the executive committee, who have never played tennis waiting for a reaction? There is one coming. stay tuned!"
Bhupathi can react to his ouster but we might have seen the last of him as a Davis Cupper.