Faced with a boycott threat from India's top tennis players, a beleaguered AITA Friday sought to placate the revolting group by terming their suggestions as "progressive" and agreeing to meet some of their demands.
Hours after the players issued a fresh threat to pull out of the upcoming Davis Cup tie against South Korea from February 1, the national tennis body dropped enough hints that it may increase the players' share in the Davis Cup prize money, which is one their major demands.
"The players suggestions are progressive. If they want a change in the (prize sharing) agreement after 18 years, it is rightly so," AITA President Anil Khanna told PTI.
"AITA CEO and other senior Executives had a fruitful meeting with the players and AITA is looking with a positive frame of mind to help the players financially. AITA is aware that the players do not make tremendous amount of money on the circuit. They deserve all the support which, they can get," Khanna added.
As per the current agreement, the AITA and the players divide the prize money, given by the International Tennis Federation, equally. The players are okay with 50-50 ratio for Group II ties but want more share for the upper level ties. As per media reports, they want 70-30 ratio for Group I ties and 80-20 for the World Group ties.
Meanwhile, AITA CEO Hironmoy Chatterjee, who is talking to the players on behalf of the tennis body, said they are discussing with the Executive Committee members how much more money could be given to the players.
"We are working out the numbers. It is our responsibility to give moral support to the players. We are willing to extend support within our limitations," Chatterjee told PTI. "Actually Davis Cup ties are a loss making propositions for us. We lose money but we will extend support if the players feel more comfortable with that. We do not mind giving additional support. We are working out what can be given," he added.
Chatterjee hopes that crisis will soon end, saying,"I assure that we will reach a mutually acceptable decision." However, he said categorically that the final call with regard to support staff of the team remains with them.
Earlier in the day, the eight revolting players threatened to boycott the South Korea tie but insisted that their intention is not to challenge the authority of AITA. "Given that all the information is now in the public domain, we wish to emphatically state that all of us are united in our stand against certain practices observed in the management of the Davis Cup squad. We are not looking to challenge the authority of the AITA, but are making a genuine attempt to change things for the improvement of Indian tennis," the statement said.
The players repeated their major demands -- change in support staff, a say in decision making, revised agreement for the distribution of Davis Cup prize money -- and said they are not willing to play in Davis Cup unless AITA engages them in a dialogue.
"In light of the AITA Secretary General Mr. Bharat Oza's statement that the AITA will introduce a disciplinary code for players before the Davis Cup tie against South Korea in February and that only those who sign the code will be able to represent the country, we wish to make it very clear that ALL of us are, regrettably, unavailable for Davis Cup selection unless the AITA is willing to consider and engage with us on our very legitimate suggestions in relation to the team."
The players said their statement should not be construed as an ultimatum but instead as a platform for change to ensure a better future for Indian Tennis.