"If you want funds, make yourself available to play for India." That's the message from the Sports Ministry. And though the Ministry hasn't taken any names, it's clear that the diktat is targeted at India's top tennis players. Leander Paes, Rohan Bopanna and Somdev Devvarman had chosen to skip the Asian Games in Incheon, in favour of tournaments on the professional ATP tour. But it appears to be a situation where the Sports Ministry looks like it was in a rush to pull up the players, without even understanding their situation. (Also read: Sarita Devi Asian Games reaction was one-off, Says Indian Olympics Boss)
For the ministry, the tennis players were selfish to choose cash over country. And a repeat offence will lead to complete ineligibility for government funds. The diktat has got the backing of the Indian Olympic Asssociation as well. "The government is right in asking athletes to put India first", N Ramachandran, President of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA), told NDTV.
But money is not why India's players backed out. Infact, since the London Olympics in 2012, India's tennis players have not received any government funding at all. "We're not sure why, but since London 2012, we haven't got any government funding. It's an issue that we're looking at with the Ministry, and we hope it gets resolved soon. If players are told that they are being funded, I see no reason why they should not make themselves available", India's current Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali, told NDTV.