First off, let me clarify that this post is based on hypothesis. I don’t know for sure if there is a rift in the Indian camp. Reports of Sehwag and Gambhir being unhappy with Dhoni is just rumors at this point. All that we have are reports like these. Though comments from certain players indicate that all is not well, without hard facts, it is hard to know for sure.
Having said that, this post is about whose side I would be on, assuming that the Delhi boys have a problem with the skipper.
Based on the media reports through the tournament, MS Dhoni, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag are the three major players in this story.
Gambhir got tongues wagging, when he subtly criticized Dhoni for taking the game till the last over, the same one in which Dhoni got the team over the winning line. Recently, Sehwag feigned ignorance of Dhoni’s reasoning for rotation of the senior batsmen and maintained that the skipper had given them different reasons. Some other soundbites from the same presser indicate some sort of frostiness between the two. Read it and judge for yourself.
The usually unflappable Dhoni himself has started to show signs of frustration, with the finger wagging at the umpires in the Australia game coming as a rare sight. Poor performances on the field are nothing new for him, so this could hint at some tough times off the field as well. Now, with Sehwag’s comments he might feel as if the Delhi boys are ganging upon him.
Anytime a player or a group of players rise up in mutiny against the incumbent skipper, that too during the middle of a tough tour, I’m always going to support the incumbent skipper. Whatever issues one may have, and there are a few legitimate issues to be sorted out regarding the captain’s recent decisions, public signs of dissension are never a good idea. For two experienced international cricketers, they have not been very bright about how this might be interpreted outside the team circle. Team loyalty has been thrown out the window, and this team is increasingly starting to resemble the Pakistan team of the 90s with all their infighting.
Gambhir is one of the finest batsmen in the Indian team and he has a big role to play in the coming years to guide the side when the Big Three leave the arena; but that doesn’t mean he has to let his ego get in the way of the team’s greater good. If he had a problem with Dhoni’s tactics, it should be discussed behind closed doors, not in the public forum. He might be a prickly character to the opposition, but we don’t need that to be displayed against his own team-mates. This is where he differs from Virat Kohli, another Delhi batsman with an aggressive outlook. Can you see Kohli making the same comments Gambhir did, even if he had felt the same? That is why, I would rather see Kohli being groomed as the next captain. He might have attitude problems, but you know that he will never cast aspersions on his own team-mates.
Virender Sehwag. For the last 10 years, everyone is comfortable with the explanation, “Thats the way he bats, and thats the way he talks’. Why not? His records speak for themselves, and his quips have made many a press conference and post-game more livelier. Nowadays, it can be grating. Sure, he has taken a couple of good catches this summer, but with the bat, he has been a major disappointment, mostly getting out to poor deliveries. Now, with his recent comments, he has made the dressing room environment more tense. Reports of a rift between the two have been around for a long time. If I’m not mistaken, there was a similar issue during the last Champions Trophy or something. While he and Dhoni may display overt signs of camaraderie on the field, it doesn’t matter if Sehwag can’t back it off the field. Like Gambhir, if he had any doubts with Dhoni’s explanation for the rotation policy, he should have clarified with the skipper before making any statements to the press. What this all does is create a suspicious environment around the team; something they don’t need at this point in the tournament, or for that matter, at this point as a team in transition.
Dhoni’s captaincy has been disappointing this summer and some of his decisions on the field are plain baffling; but he is the captain of the side, and the players have to respect that. This is not the time to harbor captaincy ambitions of their own, but to ensure that the team does better in the remainder of the tournament. Beyond this tour, the players, the coach and the board have to band together to work out a way the team can get better. Hopefully, whatever differences there may be between players, saner heads will prevail. A team with Dhoni, Gambhir and Sehwag all working on the same page, can be the best news for a team which is crying out for a strong and unified leadership.