Zeeshan Ali becomes India's Davis Cup tennis captain in absence of Rohit Rajpal

Zeeshan Ali
Zeeshan Ali

Islamabad | Call it destiny or coincidence.

In 1964, Akhtar Ali was a key member of the Indian Davis Cup team that travelled to Pakistan. Six decades later, cross-border neighbours will once again battle it out on Pakistan soil with Akhtar's son Zeeshan Ali taking over reins as team's captain, albeit as a stop-gap arrangement.

Back then, Akhtar Ali had played three of the five matches, winning the opening singles and the doubles with Premjit Lall. His third match against Munawar Iqbal could not be completed and India won 4-0.

Both Akhtar and Lall are no more.

Zeeshan has been asked to double up as coach and captain since regular skipper Rohit Rajpal could not travel to Islamabad due to a medical issue at home.

"Our non-playing captain Rohit Rajpal couldn't travel with the team due to some personal reasons. I am happy to inform that today we have appointed Zeeshan Ali, a very senior player, as the captain of the side," All India Tennis Federation (AITA) secretary general Anil Dhupar said.

"He (Zeeshan) will be the captain for this tie and firmly believe that India would put up a strong performance under his captaincy in Pakistan."

It indeed is an emotional moment for Zeeshan, who has been India's coach since 2013.

"My father was part of that 1964 team so to be here with Indian team after 60 years is indeed a great moment for me and my family. I am looking forward to what's coming this week. I am sure boys will put up a great show and we win this tie," Zeeshan told PTI ahead of the February 3-4 tie.

"It's a great honour. I played Davis Cup over eight years and in 2013, I became the coach of the side and now becoming the captain is truly a great honour and opportunity to serve India."

"Firstly, I wish Rajpal was here and he did not have to face the issues at home. Secondly, we had this inkling this might happen. It's a proud moment for any player, there are not many who played, became coach and then became captain. So I thank Mr Anil jain, Anil Dhupar and Rohot for having that confidence in me."

Zeeshan, 54, has been an integral part of the Indian Davis Cup set up. He has worked with Leander Paes, Anand Amritraj, SP Misra, Mahesh Bhupathi and Rajpal in his stint as coach. He is aware of the requirements.

"I know the job and that makes my job as captain easier. The players know me and I know them. Being captain responsibilities are more but it is a process that I have been through years in and years out and now it's a question of focussing and keeping the players ready.

"Not much has changed except the designation."

But will his approach now that in thick of things and not stay on the sidelines.

"Eariler I would just recomend things ot captain now I have to just follow what I feel is right. Earlier I was sitting four feet behind the captain and now I will be sitting in the captain's chair. Not much changes."

Zeeshan has been thrust into the job when it's a highly anticipated India-Pakistan clash and that too happening on Pakistan soil after 60 years.

Pakistan have all to gain with a win and India have a lot at stake being favourites.

"Well, India-Pakistan, there is lot of hype but our players are professionals. They have played against Pakistan players. Aisam and Rohan Bopanna were called Indo-Pak Express when they were playing as team. Yes, there is hype but are approaching it as any other match, we are here to do a job," he said.

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