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International Tennis Federation agrees to hear Pakistan appeal

Protest made over the awarding of Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group 11 tie to New Zealand

Gulf News

Karachi: The International Tennis Federation (ITF) has agreed to hear an appeal by Pakistan against the awarding of their Davis Cup Asia-Oceania Group 11 tie to New Zealand, the Pakistan Tennis Federation said on Tuesday.

“It is a major breakthrough for us after we got confirmation from the ITF they will be hearing our appeal against the referee’s decision,” PTF secretary Mumtaz Yousuf told Reuters.

Pakistan were disqualified from this month’s Davis Cup tie against New Zealand played in Yangon, Myanmar after Sri Lankan referee Ashita Ajigala ruled that the grass court had become unplayable and dangerous.

The tie was played in Myanmar after New Zealand refused to visit Pakistan due to security concerns.

Pakistani players and officials strongly protested against the decision to award the tie to New Zealand.

“We think that the ITF’s decision to consider our appeal shows how seriously we are taking this matter and how seriously the ITF views our reservations on the referee’s decision,” Yousuf said.

The appeal will be heard by the ITF’s Board of Directors next month.

If troubled Myanmar can host Davis Cup matches then Pakistan should be allowed to follow suit, captain Mohammad Khalid had said last week as the country continued to protest at being disqualified from a weekend tie.

Khalid is still smarting after Pakistan were controversially disqualified from their “home” Davis Cup match, played in Yangon, Myanmar, against New Zealand last weekend because of “unplayable” court conditions.

The three-day Asia/Oceania Group II tie was staged in Yangon after New Zealand refused to play in Pakistan due to security concerns.

Foreign teams have shunned Pakistan since the 2009 attack on the Sri Lankan cricketers in Lahore and internal violence has forced Pakistan to play their home matches in several sports at neutral venues.

“Myanmar is having a lot of problems too but not in the cities,” Khalid told reporters in a telephone interview, drawing a parallel between the trouble-torn Asian countries.

“When we were leaving Pakistan, some journalists asked why are we going to Myanmar. They said the situation there is very bad and we were risking our lives. But we faced no problems at all.”

On Friday, when Sri Lankan referee Asitha Attygalla awarded the contest to New Zealand, eight people were killed in a riot in Sumatra island following an argument over recent sectarian violence between majority Buddhists and minority Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.

“It’s the same in Pakistan. There are some problems but it’s only in the border areas. No problem in Lahore or Karachi. We can give them (visiting teams) high-level security,” Khalid said.

“We are looking at the ITF (International Tennis Federation). They should ask other teams to visit Pakistan. We want an ITF delegation to come and see the reality here.”

Pakistan were on course to take a 2-0 lead when Attygalla awarded the contest to New Zealand after a hole opened up near the baseline.

New Zealand captain Alistair Hunt said the match had to be abandoned because of the “inch deep and half a foot wide” hole.

Pakistan have lodged a protest against the referee’s decision and double specialist Aisam Qureshi left for London on Thursday to meet ITF officials to press their case.

Khalid said his team hardly had any home advantage in the Yangon tie.

“There was no advantage actually. We just got the grasscourt we wanted. Aqeel (Khan) and Aisam have very good results on grasscourt. That’s why we wanted grasscourt.

“Malaysia was not ready to host it, so we tried a different country and Myanmar offered to host it.

“If we could play in Pakistan, we could have had the crowd behind us. That’s a big difference. In Myanmar, we faced hot weather and rain. We are not used to that. But we were happy that at least we were playing on grass.

“Considering our players’ strength, we naturally would not have cut the grass so deep. But the Sri Lankan referee took his decisions.”