Predictably, the BCCI has come out and denied that there is any rift in the Indian team that is presently touring Australia. They claim they have been in touch with the team management.
This was after the media hung on to Virender Sehwag’s comments, made in the post match press conference, after India’s 51-run loss to Sri Lanka on Tuesday. Sehwag was the stand-in-captain for the ODI as Dhoni was served a one-match ban for India’s poor over rate in their previous game.
Sehwag’s statements regarding the rotation policy were in complete contrast to what MS Dhoni had said just last week.
The public pot shots have been going on for a while now. The rift may be out in the open now with the media reporting extensively on Sehwag’s latest comments. The tension however has been no secret. Over the past couple months, certain members of the team have been making jibes at each other while addressing the press.
Without speculating on the nature of the differences, here’s a look at the sequence of events and comments made up until now -
It all started when MS Dhoni spoke to reporters before the start of the Perth Test. India had lost the first two Tests and the captain’s defensive comments were taken as a sign of things to come. He also spoke of the possibility of his quitting one format in 2013 if he was to stick around and focus on India’s plans to defend their World Cup title in 2015. This prompted pundits to speculate on whether Sehwag would replace him at the helm in the longer version.
Dhoni’s statements were also believed to have been made due to his inability to assert authority over Sehwag and a few other members of the Test squad.
Sehwag’s friend and Delhi teammate Gautam Gambhir addressed the media after the 4th ODI of the CB Series where India prevailed in a close contest with Australia. Gambhir had earlier scored a valiant 92 before Dhoni took India past the finish line in the last over of the game. In the presentation ceremony Dhoni was proud of the fact that he had decided to take the game right till the end.
Later that day, while describing the nail-biter, Gambhir said –
"We should have finished this game in the 48th over. We shouldn't have taken the game to the 50th over, that's my personal observation. "
The statements he made that day were considered by many (including the Australian press) to be aimed at questioning his skipper’s tactics.
On the morning of the tied game against Sri Lanka, Dhoni was once again questioned about his side’s batting and in a very clear dig at Gambhir said that he felt players who cross the half century mark should go on and make a 100. This was just before Gambhir went on to make another score in the 90s before being run out by Dhoni himself. Dhoni acknowledged his mistake but it is without doubt that if Gambhir had stayed on India would not have had to share points with the Island nation.
After Gambhir’s impressive knocks, journalists were keen to know if Dhoni would continue the rotation policy of playing 2 of the 3 seniors (Gambhir, Tendulkar and Sehwag) per match and resting one of them in favour of giving youngsters a chance in the middle order. This is what Dhoni had to say –
"Well, if they find it difficult (to sit out) there's no reason why a youngster who has played just 30 or 35 games will find it easier to do that."
Post India’s ODI against Australia in skipper MS Dhoni justified not having all three seniors (Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gambhir) in the playing XI with the argument that it would affect the fielding and lead to an extra 20 runs being given away.
And finally yesterday, Sehwag said he didn’t know that Dhoni felt the three seniors wouldn’t play together because it would hamper the fielding standard of the side -
"I didn't know what he said and what's going on in the media. But we decided, we had a meeting, he chatted with everyone, with Gautam and myself and Tendulkar; he explained that he wanted to give chances to youngsters so youngsters can play all the matches here because the next World Cup is also here, so they'll get an idea of how the pitches behave in Australia," said Sehwag.
He went on to say that he was not thinking about clarifying the issue with Dhoni –
The one thing that is clear, is that this Indian team is in dire need of a qualified and capable media manager and a board that is determined to clear out any existing issues within the team without trying to brush things under the carpet. Differences between players is commonplace, but a divided team cannot be a successful one.