India's Davis Cup squad for the Pakistan tie excludes rising star Sumit Nagal and veteran Sasikumar Mukund. The team will be spearheaded by Ramkumar Ramanathan (ranked 461st) and N Sriram Balaji.
The upcoming Davis Cup tie between India and Pakistan in Islamabad holds less shine than initially anticipated. While the historical friction adds intrigue, a lopsided ranking disparity, and a limited-capacity venue dampen the excitement. However, for India, the focus remains singular: securing promotion back to World Group 1.
After facing off against tennis powerhouses like Norway and Denmark, India's relegation to World Group 2 was a reality check. Now, facing Morocco and Pakistan – teams ranked lower – presents a golden opportunity to reclaim their lost ground. This tie, however, lacks the star power fans expected. Missing are Sumit Nagal, fresh off his Australian Open run, and Sasikumar Mukund. Instead, the mantle falls on Ramkumar Ramanathan (ranked 461st) and N Sriram Balaji, whose last singles action came months ago.
Despite the personnel changes, history favors India. In their seven previous Davis Cup encounters, Pakistan has never tasted victory. This dominance could continue, as Pakistan's highest-ranked player, Muzammil Mortaza, sits at a distant 1681st in the world rankings.
Indian tennis team takes part in its first training session in Islamabad in a safe and secure environment ?— Muneeb Farrukh (@Muneeb313_) January 29, 2024
Davis Cup World Group-I Playoff tie between Pakistan and India will be held in Islamabad on February 3-4.#DavisCup #PAKvIND pic.twitter.com/9afKax8xZe
However, the true challenge might not lie on the court. The limited 500-seat capacity at the Islamabad Sports Complex raises questions about the atmosphere and the potential impact on player performance. Additionally, the frosty political relations between the two nations may add an unwanted layer of pressure.
Ultimately, the India-Pakistan Davis Cup tie presents a contrasting image. On one hand, the lopsided rankings and venue limitations diminish the spectacle. On the other hand, India's clear objective and historical dominance offer a chance for a resurgence. Whether this encounter ignites passion or fizzles out will depend on how effectively both teams navigate the unique circumstances surrounding this historic yet potentially anticlimactic showdown.
Ramkumar remains the only player of the four who is still playing singles full-time professionally, and he is also adept on grass. One of the few remaining Indian players who is still an effective serve-and-volleyer, the best result of Ramkumar’s career was reaching the final of an ATP 250 event on grass back in 2018. His presence hands India the advantage on paper.
Zeeshan Ali, India coach, and captain for the tie in the absence of Rohit Rajpal, does not believe his players need any extra motivation. “The mood is upbeat and we are well prepared after the week we had in the camp in Delhi,” he told The Indian Express from Islamabad earlier this week. “All I need to say is that we have a job to do here, and the players know what it means to play for India in the Davis Cup.”,