A day after Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) President N Srinivasan claimed there was no rift in the Indian team, reports suggest the board has roped in coach Duncan Fletcher to talk to the senior players and act as 'peace-maker'. This is another classic instance of the BCCI shooting itself in the foot with one of their volte-faces.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that there obviously is some kind of hostility between skipper MS Dhoni, vice-captain Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir; the role that Sachin Tendulkar has had to play in this entire drama is unclear, but there is every possibility that even the master batsman wouldn't have been too impressed with the Indian captain's recent statements regarding the seniors. For their part, Sehwag and Gambhir have both taken open digs at Dhoni as India's on-field woes Down Under have moved off it as well.
But what is most surprising is that Fletcher didn't see it fit to step in to stop these players from openly expressing their angst with each other. One can only imagine the fissures these squabbles have created in a team which is already short on confidence and morale as it has seen more failures than successes after winning the World Cup less than a year ago. The numerous humiliating overseas losses and instances of players washing dirty linen in public in the last 10 months have seen the euphoria of Dhoni lifting the World Cup gradually turn into a sordid nightmare for Indian cricket.
Fletcher should have had a word with Gambhir immediately after the southpaw said that India's win over Australia in the fourth match of the ongoing Commonwealth Bank Series shouldn't have been dragged into the last over, and should instead have been wrapped up by the 48th over. In response to this barb, Dhoni retorted in apparent reference to Gambhir that a 'set batsman' should take the responsibility of seeing the team home instead of putting the onus on others to do so. Ironically, as it turned out, it was Dhoni's mistake that led to Gambhir being run out in the tied match against Sri Lanka; and though the skipper admitted he messed up, India could have won the match had the opening batsman still been in the middle.
Dhoni then added further fuel to the fire when after India’s 110-run loss to Australia, he said Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gambhir were not playing every game because they are slow on the field and added they could break down fielding in the big grounds of Australia. The same logic apparently didn't apply in the Test series when Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman - two other senior players - were also in the side! This is yet another indication that something is amiss in the Indian camp.
To add further credence to that assumption, Sehwag then decided it was his turn to verbally attack Dhoni. Talking to reporters after India were defeated by Sri Lanka at Brisbane, Sehwag said the senior players had not been informed that their 'slow fielding' was an issue and added Dhoni had said the rotation policy has been put in place to ensure the youngsters in the team get a chance to bat on the Australian pitches with an eye on the 2015 World Cup. If one were to read between the lines, Sehwag was accusing Dhoni of not being truthful to the senior players on the actual need for a rotation policy.
Despite these hard-hitting allegations, Sehwag was at pains to deny that there was any rift in the team. "We are one unit and a happy unit. He (Dhoni) is the captain… He can say whatever he wants. He addresses the media, has been doing it for the last two years, and we are okay with it," he said.
The issue here is, if Sehwag was indeed okay with whatever Dhoni has to say to the media, he shouldn't have launched this verbal assault on his skipper in the public; not that it absolves the India captain for not being clear enough in his conversations with the senior players.
It is quite apparent the current world champions in the 50-over format are resembling a dysfunctional family and no one (the board, the captain, the coach or the senior players) has taken the initiative, at least in the public's perception, to either nip the problem in the bud or prevent the issue from spiralling out of control and into the public domain.
But, again, this shouldn't be surpirising because we are talking about a board that is more bothered about the money in its coffers and couldn't care less about reviewing the Indian team's humiliating whitewashes in Tests away from home against Australia and England. The BCCI also didn't blink twice before naming Rahul Dravid out of the blue in the one-day squad in England merely because he was the only in-form batsman in the Test series and hadn't officially announced his retirement from the 50-over format at the time. Dravid obviously knew what awaited him and took matters into his own hands as he announced his retirement from ODIs on the same day he was recalled for that format.
The BCCI was quite proactive in solving its row with Sahara India because it involved crores of rupees, and that's the basic intent of the Indian board instead of developing the game and showing responsibility towards its main stakeholders. Had the board and team management in Australia kept their eyes and ears open; this massive spill of bad blood in the public domain could have been averted, and India's embarrasment on the field wouldn't have spilled off it. It wouldn't surprise me if the BCCI is looking forward to the Indian Premier League and is assuming that once the glitzy money-making series gets underway, all that has happened to Indian cricket over the last 10 months can be brushed under the carpet and life can start anew.
If nobody else does so, the fans owe it to themselves and to Indian cricket, to ensure the humiliating losses in England and Australia as well as the verbal spats between the senior players aren't forgotten in a hurry and corrective action to restore some glory to the national team, are put into place sooner rather than later.