New Delhi:Harsh Mankad was Saturday named as the fifth member of the Indian Davis Cup team for the upcoming tie against Japan here next week.
Though it was not said explicitly, Mankad comes in as a cover for Rohan Bopanna, who Saturday hurt his knee and conceded the Chandigarh ITF Futures final to Mankad.
The All India Tennis Association (AITA) rejected that Mankad is Bopanna's cover up and said the 27-year-old Mumbaikar earned his place in the squad as India always named a reserve player in the squad.
"The AITA selection committee today decided to include Harsh as the fifth mmember of Indian Davis Cup Team to play Japan next week. He has won the ITF Futures in Chandigarh and has been the most consistent performer in the circuit after his comeback to professional tennis," AITA Development and Marketing Director, Lt. Col. (retd) Ranbir Chauhan said.
"It is always a trend in India to have a reserve player in the side to avoid eventualities but Harsh's selction has nothing to do with Rohan's injury," he added.
Asked why the selection committee did not name the reserve player along with the main team, he said: "We have been monitoring other players' performances in the last couple of weeks and found that Harsh has been the most steady player off late."
Whatever may be the reason, Bopanna's injury is a setback for the Indian squad ahead of their crucial Davis Cup tie against Japan from April 11-13.
Bopanna though was confident about his participation against Japan and said that the pull out was just a precautionary measure before the Davis Cup tie as he was feeling his knee was a bit sore.
"My knee was inflamed for the last couple of days and today I was feeling a bit. So as a precautionary measure I decided to skip the final," Bopanna told IANS.
"There is nothing to worry about as it is a minor injury. I pulled out because I didn't want to aggravate it ahead of the crucial tie against Japan," he added.
If India can beat Japan, they might have a very great opportunity of qualifying for the World Group, a feat they have not been able to achieve since 1998.
Though the 28-year-old Bangalorean feels the hosts stand with an advantage against Japan, the tie is evenly poised for both sides.
"Japan will be a tough opponent but we will have a pretty good chance against them as the tie is at home and on grass. For now both the teams chances are 50-50," Bopanna said.