Zeeshan Ali: No Davis Cup selection headache

Ahead of the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group-I tie against Uzbekistan to be held here in April, Zeeshan Ali, selector and India coach, said that there would be no selection headaches this time.

Zeeshan Ali is confident that there isn’t a problem of plenty.   -  Sudhakara Jain.

Ahead of the Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group-I tie against Uzbekistan to be held here in April, Zeeshan Ali, selector and India coach, said that there would be no selection headaches this time.

Mahesh Bhupathi, making his debut as captain, had announced a six-man squad comprising Yuki Bhambri and Ramkumar Ramanathan, doubles specialists Leander Paes and Rohan Bopanna, along with Sriram Balaji and Prajnesh Gunneswaran.

But with Balaji and Prajnesh raking up impressive results in the lead-up to the tie, and with Bhupathi open to the idea of playing more than two singles specialists in the final four, the team’s eventual composition is anybody’s guess.

“It was an excellent choice by the selection committee to have both Balaji and Prajnesh in the squad,” said Zeeshan. “Both the boys have been doing extremely well, have got a lot of matches under their belt. They will be playing in Trivandrum next week.

“So, very match sharp. Nothing better than getting a lot of matches coming into the tie.”

While Bhambri and Ramkumar remain India’s frontline singles players, Balaji has been in form. In the last five Futures tournaments, he has bagged two singles titles, three doubles titles, and finished runner-up twice in the singles and once in doubles.

The doubles results are particularly significant as it is important for the flexibility it provides the team with.

Prajnesh, on the other hand, has a singles title and a runner-up finish, apart from the fact that he held three match-points against Denis Istomin, the Uzbek No. 1, at the Australian Open wild-card play-off tournament.

“We have looked at it from all possible angles,” Zeeshan said. “We wanted to have him [Prajnesh] because of his past result with Istomin just before the Aussie Open.

“Balaji will be one of the top contenders to play singles or the doubles. Definitely. The six players we have now are definitely the six best we need to choose from.”

Still Zeeshan was confident that it wasn’t a problem of plenty. “The final four needs to be announced 10 days before the tie,” he said. “But the other two players who are the reserves can be brought in till an hour before the draw ceremony. We will name the four players now, but they may not necessarily be the final four. We will leave that completely open.”

“The team is getting together on the Sunday (April 2) before the tie. That gives us extra sessions to get acclimatised to the conditions. Then the way they are practising, the fitness issues, all will be looked at. Then we will decide the final four on the day of the draw.”