Long-standing rift between MS Dhoni & Virender Sehwag needs to be bridged


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Mar 24, 2009
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There's an air of unease and discomfort around Indian cricket at the moment. It stems from the senior national team, with the reputations of a few 'big' names overshadowing their performances in recent months.

It may be far-fetched to blame India's early exit from the World T20 in Sri Lanka on this; but there's no denying that if this disquiet is not addressed quickly, the team will continue to struggle in all formats.

The outspoken Mohinder Amarnath, who was expected to become the chief national selector, found himself out of the panel itself because he questioned Mahendra Singh Dhoni's retention as Test captain.

VVS Laxman, who retired in pique, did not invite Dhoni to his little post-retirement celebration at home that included all other team members. The two incidents clearly showed that all was not well in the team.

Further, the fact that Dhoni and opening bat Virender Sehwag do not see eye-to-eye, to put it mildly, has been an open secret for some time now. There's also very little doubt about where Sehwag's opening partner Gautam Gambhir's priorities lie.

Until last year, all these stories were dismissed as 'rumours'; but today, nobody even bothers to deny them. In fact, even players who have just about managed to warm the Team India bench a couple of times, are privy to this 'feud'.

"Ego," say some, while others point to "difference in thinking between Dhoni and Sehwag". Whatever, it certainly isn't helping India's cause.

It's all the more worrying because the 'rifts' only seem to happen more often when at least two-three of these senior players are not exactly performing at even their half-best.

Sehwag's last century in Test cricket came in 2010, as did Gambhir's; 2011 was the worst year for Dhoni as Test batsman. Even in One-day cricket, India didn't waste much time slipping from Number One after winning the World Cup.

In Twenty20, they're not only ranked fifth in the world but also have the additional burden of having failed in the shortest format since their World T20 triumph in 2007.

In such a scenario, off-the-field squabbling is only bound to get more fuel. That the national selection committee has acted like a toothless body in controlling these affairs only made things worse. Zonal priorities, regionalism and backroom lobbying also seem to be back with a bang.

"One of the biggest problems is lack of trust. When a player doesn't trust his captain or the captain doesn't trust his player, it has lead to trouble," say those who track Team India.

Those in the circuit are quick to point out that lack of runs or camaraderie hasn't affected the same cricketers when they play for their respective Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises.

Sehwag enjoyed one of his better seasons in IPL this year when a string of impressive scores resulted in Delhi Daredevils - certainly not among the favourites at the start of the season - vaulting into the semifinals.

Dhoni, always a favourite when he turns out in a Chennai Super Kings jersey, once again led his team with fire into the final. Gambhir's performances turned out to be the best of the lot, in not only leading the team but also helping Kolkata Knight Riders win the trophy.

Somehow, the same three have not been so effective when they joined hands and turned out for the national team. On current form, none of them deserves a place in either the Test side or even the T20 squad.

But lack of options, and the despondent trend of reputations being more important than performances, have made sure that they could not be touched. India's next international assignment is still more than a month away - the Test series against England - and there's a new selection committee in place that doesn't have to connect with the past baggage.

Speculation is already rife that Dhoni could make way for a new skipper in the Twenty20 format. He is likely to hold his position as ODI skipper, while Gambhir could take over in Tests.

But these are, again, just rumours as of now. The fact remains that BCCI has to act and has to act fast. Two former national selectors point to the last time when Indian cricket had gone through a similar phase - 2004-2005 to be precise.

"When your priority as a cricketer changes from helping the team win matches to consolidating your position in the team or the system, it has to have a negative impact," says one of them.

It is clear that at the moment that's precisely what's happening, with the senior players flexing their muscles to assert themselves

A stormy relationship that still continues

Team India's two pillars - Virender Sehwag and MS Dhoni - have been at the loggerheads for some time now. Looking back, the two had never been the best of friends and now, as the fraternity may like to suggest, things have only gone from bad to worse.

A rift timeline

* Cracks are first learnt to have surfaced when Dhoni got elevated as Team India skipper

* Relations soured a little when Dhoni rested Sehwag in the World T20 final against Pakistan in 2007, opting to open with Gautam Gambhir and Yusuf Pathan.

* In 2008, Dhoni once again rested Sehwag for fitness reasons during the CB Series in Australia. However, Sehwag later clarified that he was fit.

* The inclusion of Robin Uthappa for the CB Series final threatened to spoil relations further.

* Dhoni made a public show of team unity in 2009 when Sehwag carried a shoulder injury into the tournament and later was rested. A case of very bad PR.

* Soon after, Sehwag signaled his intent to captain Team India when he said, "I will not be vice captain, I am ready to be captain.

* Dhoni insisting on rotation policy and Sehwag resisting it, rumoured accusations of him being a liability on the field and lack of trust have are further learnt to have brought the relationship to a cut-off point.

Long-standing rift between MS Dhoni & Virender Sehwag needs to be bridged before it's too late - The Times of India on Mobile

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