New Delhi:Months after being faced with a players' revolt spearheaded by his estranged partner Mahesh Bhupathi, Leander Paes on Tuesday stepped down as India's Davis Cup captain exactly a month ahead of the country's crucial World Group playoff tie against Romania.
The AITA has appointed SP Misra, a former Davis Cup player and member of the Indian team which went into the Challenge Round in 1966, as the non-playing captain for the tie against Romania scheduled September 19 to 21.
Paes has, however, retained his place in the team as player.
"India's number one Davis Cupper Leander Paes informed Anil Khanna, Executive Vice President and Secretary General in a meeting held in Beijing just after the tennis event that he would like to step down as captain of the Indian Davis Cup Team for the tie against Romania," AITA said in a statement.
AITA said Paes decided to step aside as "he wanted the best Davis Cup Team to represent the nation and did not want to leave any doubt in anyone's mind for their non-participation to represent the country in the biggest team event."
Meanwhile, in a surprise move Somdev Devvarman, who made his Davis Cup debut in the April tie against Japan, has been drafted into the squad in place of Rohan Bopanna.
"Somdev has been picked on the basis of his recent performance. Leander and Mahesh being our best doubles players, picked themselves into the squad. But Rohan has not been selected because Prakash and Somdev are in better form and are ranked higher than him," Khanna said, referring to Somdev's NCAA title win in the USA this year.
"Of course, Rohan is more experienced but Somdev is in great form and we thought he would be a better choice. Current form and performance were the only criteria while selecting the team," he insisted.
Paes' tenure as captain has been mired in controversy for the past one year with Bhupathi and players like Prakash Amritraj refusing to play under him, citing his critical attitude towards them in the press.
"This man has taken the joy away from playing the Davis Cup," Amritraj had said ahead of the April tie against Japan, which India won to advance to the World Group playoff.
Interestingly, Bopanna was not part of the revolt and had stated that he had no problem playing under Paes.
Although Paes chose to maintain a stoic silence through the entire turmoil after that, the revolting players had apparently made it clear that they would not accept him as captain for the Romania tie.
Paes holds the highest win-loss record for India having won 83 Davis Cup matches against 31 losses.
In a career spanning over last 17 years he has played 44 Davis Cup ties and he took over as the playing captain of the Indian Davis Cup team after Ramesh Krishnan stepped down as non-playing captain.
The tie against Romania will be played on red clay in Clubul Sportiv Progresul, Bucuresti there.
The Team: Leander Paes, Mahesh Bhupathi, Somdev Devvarman, Prakash Amritraj.