(MENAFN - Muscat Daily) The Oman Tennis Association (OTA) was on Monday forced to pick a young, inexperienced team for the challenging Davis Cup Asia/Oceania Group IV tournament in Iran following the pullout of regular players due to various reasons - including employers not releasing them for national duty.
Left without a choice, the OTA admitted that the Omani youngsters could suffer a 'drubbing' against experienced opponents at the competition that will begin on June 9.
Khalid al Nabhani, Oman's top player, won't play because he is pursuing higher studies in Glasgow, Scotland, while Oman's No 2 player and Khalid's younger brother, Mohammed, is undergoing treatment for a back injury in Germany. The national team's other two regular members - Saleh al Zadjali and Fahad al Hashmi - haven't been granted the go-ahead by their respective employers.
Another senior player, Mudrik al Rawahi, backed out for personal reasons. Siddiq al Hashmi, the OTA's treasurer and board member, told Muscat Daily, ''It is unfortunate that we are forced to pick a completely inexperienced squad; all the team members are in their teens. We knew the Nabhani duo couldn't make it for genuine reasons. But we were shocked to learn the respective employers of Saleh and Fahad refused to give release letters.''
Hashmi added, ''Usually, in the public sector, when a sportsperson is called for national duty, he gets a release letter to attend the camp and take part in the event. In the private sector, there is no such rule binding the employers to release national team players as we found out with Saleh and Fahad. We tried hard to prevail upon their bosses, but we could only get a negative reply.''
Arguing that the OTA also can't pull out of participation in the Davis Cup at the last moment, Hashmi said, ''We have picked up a squad with three U15 players, while the oldest player is 18. All of them will be making their Davis Cup debut. We know it will be harsh on them as we expect a drubbing, but we could also not just pull out of the event.
''A late withdrawal would have incurred a penalty from the world body, ITF, while also risking suspension of grants for minitennis, which is our pilot project.'' In Iran, Oman will be represented by Younis al Rawahi (15), Zakariya al Suleimani (14), Abdullah al Barwani (14) and Imran al Balushi (18). Hashmi will be the non-playing captain while Suleiman al Rawahi will be the coach.
The team will leave for Iran on June 4 and the matches will be played on the clay courts of the Enghelab Sports Complex in Tehran. The other teams taking part in the Group IV event are Bahrain, Bangladesh, Iraq, Jordan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Pacific Oceania, Qatar and Saudi Arabi