The AITA is contemplating action against Sasikumar Mukund for not wearing the official jersey during the Davis Cup tie against Morocco and has also introduced a players’ code of conduct to ensure “discipline” in future. In the opening singles of the World Group II play-off tie against Yassine Dlimi on September 16, Mukund wore the jersey provided by his personal sponsor and not the one made available by official Indian team sponsor ‘OOK’ after taking “permission” from skipper Rohit Rajpal. To make matter worse, the jersey that Mukund wore on his Davis Cup debut, had ‘INDIA’ spelt wrongly and the matter was brought to AITA’s notice by the team sponsor.
The team name printed on the back had an extra ‘I’.
It may be mentioned that the official sponsor only provided the kit and no sponsorship money was given to either All Indian Tennis Association (AITA) or the players, who were part of the tie that India won 4-1 in Lucknow last month.
AITA issued a show-cause notice to Mukund on September 28, asking him to explain within seven days why action should not be taken against him for not wearing the official jersey and playing with a jersey that had India written wrongly.
On October 3, Mukund sent his reply to the national federation, saying that “shorts received from OOK were not comfortable”.
Mukund also wrote that he had taken prior permission from both captain Rajpal and coach Zeeshan Ali to wear the jersey that had his personal sponsor’s name printed.
Explaining the spelling fiasco, Mukund wrote that he had received eight T-shirts from his sponsor and unfortunately he picked the only one that had printing mistake.
He also lamented that neither the captain nor his teammates noticed when he stepped on to the court.
“I have immense respect for my country and I would never do something intentionally to tarnish its image,” he wrote and also apologised for the inadvertent mistake.
On October 13, the AITA communicated to Mukund that his explanation was not acceptable since the captain has denied giving him any permission and further asked him to clarify his stand.
When contacted by PTI, Mukund said captain Rajpal had indeed allowed him.
“There was no money involved. The players were not given any sponsorship fee for this tie. Only the kit was provided by the official sponsor. Captain Rajpal had understood this and allowed me,” Mukund, who had lost his match to Dlimi, said.
“Usually, the players are asked to sign a contract with the AITA for that one week if they are being paid for wearing that official kit. In this case, we did not sign any contract. My personal sponsor ‘Indian Tree’ pays me, so what’s wrong in it. The pockets of the shorts were such that the ball were coming out.
“These are the reasons that the players lose interest in playing for the national team,” he said.
India skipper Rajpal, though, there seems to be some mis-communication on the issue.
“Let me say that there is some mis-communication. To put things correctly, all players should wear the official jersey without exception. We are playing for India. I would say even let go of the sponsorship money also, if you are playing for India,” Rajpal told PTI.
AITA Secretary General Anil Dhupar said they have introduced a players’ code of conduct for clarity and all players will be bound by it.
“The players code of conduct is before the Executive Committee members. It will come into effect immediately. It is for all players, be it men’s, women’s, boys or girls,” he said.
Asked if they will indeed take action against Mukund, Dhupar said,”Mukund has apologised but we are still discussing the matter”.
Asked for his viewpoint, Davis Cup coach Zeeshan Ali said,”All players should be wearing only the official kit. During the Asian Games all the players and support staff wore the official kit only. Procedure has to be followed by all”.
It is not the first time that an Indian player has preferred playing with the kit that has his personal sponsor’s name written. They do get paid for sporting kits bearing sponsor’s logo on it. If the match is telecast live, the amount increases.
“The AITA had also introduced the system of paying the players for official sponsor’s name. The initiative was taken by captain Rohit Rajpal. If you have to stop players from wearing the name of their personal sponsor during the Davis Cup, then you have to compensate,” said a team source.
“In this case (Morocco tie), no sponsor was willing to pay any sponsorship money to the players and the AITA. Just the kits had arrived through OOK. It is difficult to even arrange for kits for Indian Davis Cup team,” the source said, summing up the state of Indian tennis.