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Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Status: It’s complicated

Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and deputy Virender Sehwag are neither friends nor foes

Written by G.S. Vivek | New Delhi | Mumbai | Published: February 24, 2012 2:13:55 am

While media reports emerging from Australia have suggested that the Indian dressing room has become a hotbed of intrigue,with captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and vice-captain Virender Sehwag not seeing eye to eye,insiders insist that the picture isn’t as grim as it is made out to be. An India player,not willing to be identified,said that team meetings are cordial with every player chipping in with suggestions.

“It’s not like Dhoni and Viru aren’t speaking to each other or are having heated arguments. Actually,it’s a bit of an ego thing between them. It has been there for a while and it’s the same now.”

That Dhoni and Sehwag don’t quite share a wavelength,is an old tale. They have never been two peas in a pod,unlike the Sri Lankan pair of Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene,who together form the engine-room of their team. Despite their differences on several issues,however,Dhoni and Sehwag have always maintained a commendable working relationship.

The clash of egos between the two could be traced back to the time Dhoni emerged as the surprise pick to lead India to the inaugural World T20 in 2007,before being handed the ODI captaincy soon after. It was the first time they were pitted against each other,though inadvertently. Back then,Sehwag had everything going for him to replace Rahul Dravid at the helm: reputation,age,and even immense cricketing nous. Unfortunately,this period coincided with the Delhi opener’s worst run with the bat across all formats,resulting in him losing out to Dhoni.

First face-off

It was during India’s previous trip to Australia back in 2007-08,however,when things came to a boil between the two strong-minded,proud cricketers. Despite having received an affirmation regarding Sehwag’s fitness from the man himself on the eve of India’s CB Series league clash against Australia at Brisbane,Dhoni decided to go with Manoj Tiwary instead at the last minute. The Kolkata right-hander had just landed Down Under in the wee hours of the morning and went on to make a painful 16-ball 2 on debut. The Indian captain continued to pick others over Sehwag. Out-of-sorts Robin Uthappa was played as the opener in the best-of-three finals. Dhoni had similarly decided to hand Yusuf Pathan a debut in the 2007 World T20 final at the top of the order in place of Sehwag.

Then came the public outburst between the two,days before the 2009 World T20 in England followed by the rather churlish stunt by Dhoni to bring along his entire team and mock unity for the sake of the press. Those close to both men have often revealed that snide remarks were being shared in private regarding the other. A case in point being the Bangladesh tour where Dhoni insisted that he didn’t believe in making hyperbolic statements,after Sehwag,as stand-in captain,had called the hosts an ‘ordinary’ side prior to the first Test.

What has compounded issues in recent times is the shambolic failure of the Indian team in Tests overseas,with the openers taking a major chunk of the blame.

Fuel to fire

The mystery surrounding the injury status of Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir during the Test series in England only heightened the speculated under-currents between the two parties. As a result,Dhoni’s relations have also become strained with his one-time ‘go-to man’ Gautam Gambhir. An ardent admirer of Dhoni’s leadership till not long ago,it was the left-hander,who had added the maximum fuel to the rift intrigue by expressing his doubts over Dhoni’s finishing tactics following the win against Australia at Adelaide. Neither has Gambhir been an fervent supporter of the rotation theory.

“The constant failures in recent times have worsened the morale and brought all these rift theories to light. The media scrutiny hasn’t helped our cause either,” feels another player.

The bickering,finger-pointing and the speculated backbiting almost seem inconceivable when contrasted with the carefree,impudent approach that both Dhoni and Sehwag display on the field. Never before has Team India required a successful run of results as desperately as now. If nothing then just to muzzle the grapevines for now.

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