Rift is the chosen word of the day here in Australia. From news channels to the highly respected newspapers printed,the infighting between two high powered players from the same team is making and breaking news by the minute. No,its not the alleged one in the Indian cricket team,but the one between prime minister Julia Gillard and former PM Kevin Rudd a rift thats tearing Australias ruling Labor party apart.
Sifting through the sports pages of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age doesnt help find the very dirty linen soiled by Virender Sehwag and MS Dhoni; the cricket stories gravitate around how its team plans on leaving its Ponting past behind and move right on. On the Indian front,the papers carry stories on how the knives have turned on Sachin Tendulkar following Pontings axing. Player backbiting player? Too bitter for an Australian cup of tea.
The local cricket media here too doesnt seem to care much about intrigue,not even if they happen to be two of their own. At the press conference on Thursday,Michael Clarke was asked whether he had a role to play in the sacking of Ricky Ponting. Clarke looked back at the questioner like he was answering one about strategies and said: Yes.
A collective decision
Selection and de-selection,Clarke explained at the Bellerive Oval,is part and parcel of both the Australian captains job and the game. He certainly knows its not personal, Clarke said matter-of-factly. Weve made this decision as a panel. It is tough not having the great Ricky Ponting out there playing for us. But thats the decision weve made. Captain forces legend out of the team. Fair enough. Move right on.
Whichever way the kaleidoscope turns,this tri-series has been terribly tough on the seniors from all three sides. But the most primitive of differences between this triangle has been the way the teams have handled their differences in front of the media. At every given opportunity,the Indian players have sold their own down the river; the Australians have said it as it is,while the Sri Lankans have remained mum even when pressed.
The last two have clearly worked much better than the first on both counts the mental makeup of the sides and their positions on the points table. Team Lanka,for example,have just come through a tough time of humiliating losses in South Africa,a change in regime and zero income from their cricket board. Yet,with two powerful centres in captain Mahela Jayawardene and former captain Kumar Sangakkara at the top,the side functions without a clash of egos.
And even when they lose,as they did earlier this series by harrowing margins,no brow was raised on the rift front. Yes,players may not be friends outside and sometimes may not get along on the field,but thats just how a team works. One that is bigger than the sum of its parts,even in front of the cameras.
The Aussies,on the other hand,live and play like blood brothers. It makes Clarke say: Yes,I was 100 per cent part of (the panel that sacked Ponting). But Im sure my friendship with him is a lot stronger than that. This after firing him from the one-day side. Now just imagine the same situation and replace the captain and legend with Dhoni and Tendulkar respectively. One cant. Not after a communication breakdown between the Indian captain and the seniors has supposedly torn the team apart.