THE price for dissent has been paid by Delhi boys Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir. They have been outmanoeuvred, outthought and outfoxed by MS Dhoni. Sehwag has lost his place and Gambhir his vice-captaincy.
In the war of attrition between the skipper and the senior players, Round One has gone to MSD. The message is loud and clear — the board mavens are backing the captain, who has shown that he is the boss, telling both players to 'mind it'.
Dhoni and Sehwag have not seen eye to eye in the past and their 'rivalry' touched an all-time low when they publicly differed on the composition of the team in the ongoing tri-series in Australia.
On Wednesday, the national selectors 'rested' Sehwag while picking a 15-member squad for the Asia Cup and Gambhir, who has previously led the team and served as vice-captain too, was demoted. Virat Kohli was named the vice-captain, "looking at the future”.
Chairman of the selection committee K Srikkanth said that Sehwag and Zaheer Khan have not been dropped but rested on the advice of physiotherapists.
Justifying the rotation policy, Dhoni said at a press conference on February 19 in Australia that senior players Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gambhir were slow as fielders and that youngsters needed to be given opportunities considering that the 2015 World Cup would be played in Australia-New Zealand.
Two days later, Sehwag said that he wasn't aware what Dhoni had told the media, and this added fuel to the raging fire. BCCI insisted there was no rift in the team and president N Srinivasan blamed the media for fanning the issue, but he failed to convince.
The composition of the Asia Cup squad clearly suggests that Dhoni, apparently supported by Srikkanth, had his way. People allege bias in selection, saying Dhoni and Srikkanth joined hands to drop Sehwag. Dhoni, they point out, captains the Srinivasan-owned IPL Chennai Super Kings and Srikkanth was the team's brand ambassador till last year.
"Unfortunately, Sehwag and Zaheer have been asked to take rest by the physio. They have been rested purely on injury grounds. We have gone strictly by the medical report which says Sehwag and Zaheer need rest because of injury problems,” Srikkanth told reporters.
He, however, didn't specify the injuries. Sehwag didn't show any obvious injury sign while scoring a 16-ball 30 against Sri Lanka on Tuesday in Hobart.
It is learnt that Mohinder Amarnath, the north zone representative on the selection committee, argued in favour Gambhir being given vice-captaincy, but he was outvoted. When contacted, Amarnath said: "I can't discuss what transpired in the meeting. Once we are out of the room, we don't discuss the issues outside. I am a professional and doing a job.”
The K Srikkanth-headed selection committee decided not to rest Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar, who has scored his runs at an average of 20.42 in the ongoing Commonwealth Bank Tri-Series.
They also recalled Yusuf Pathan, who has recovered from a knee injury, and pacer Ashok Dinda, but there were no other surprises.
Srikkanth insisted that Sehwag, along with pacers Zaheer and Umesh Yadav, had been rested for the four nation tournament that will be played from March 11-22.
Srikkanth lost his cool while trying to justify the omission of Sehwag.
When asked persistently that if Sehwag was indeed injured why wasn't he sent back home, Srikkanth retorted: "Boss, you just shut up now. You don't talk like that now. We are talking about fitness. I know what you are implying. If you throw various googlies at me I will get angry, too. I know what to say. We are talking simple and straight, keep it that way.”
To be fair, Sehwag, who less than three months ago scored a world-record 219 in an ODI against the West Indies in Indore, has failed to click on the Australian tour. He has scored 198 runs in four-Test series for the Border-Gavaskar Trophy preceding the tri-series, in which he has managed just 65 in five matches.
Pathan, who was dropped after the tour to the West Indies last year, has returned after regaining full fitness. He had injured his left knee in a Ranji trophy game against Haryana. Dinda has replaced Umesh Yadav on the basis of his performance in the domestic season. He took 37 wickets in the Ranji Trophy and grabbed 22 in the Duleep Trophy.