“Why should I have a chat with him? He is the captain, he is the leader; if he and the coach think we should give breaks to the top order, that’s fine, I am okay with that. I don’t have any issues with that.”
—Virender Sehwag on M.S. Dhoni
Virender Sehwag was never one to fashion the front-foot defensive into a statement of stylish batsmanship. What’s more, he doesn’t repose trust in that forward plod; his method is one of clean, blunt strokeplay. In speech, he’s equally unequivocal, speaking bitter truths with a straight face. But his lack of subtlety merits second thought: you know he’s being honest but you wonder, perhaps absurdly, if it is cleansed of other motives.
On February 19, after the loss to Australia in the one-day tri-series, Indian skipper M.S. Dhoni had said that he could not have the trio of Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir all together in the ODI team because “it would affect our fielding in a big way”.
Sehwag’s comment provided grist to the rumour mill, fat to the fire. He spoke an inconvenient truth and, in effect, stoked speculation about Dhoni’s honesty, motives and captaincy. It also resurrected the old Dhoni-Sehwag rift rumour, this time with the clearest facts and quotes to anchor it with.
By design or accident, Dhoni has placed in the public domain his view that Tendulkar, Gambhir and Sehwag are pretty much the worst fielders in the team. Even if it’s true, did it have to be said at the cost of hurting the pride of the trio? “Dhoni should not have said this publicly,” says former Indian coach Anshuman Gaekwad. “He should have let this remain in the dressing room.”
But once the reasons were out, the rift theory took on a life of its own—so much so that BCCI president N. Srinivasan felt it was his duty to deny its existence. BCCI vice-president Rajiv Shukla said: “From what we have understood, Sehwag has been misquoted.” Shukla didn’t explain how someone could get misquoted after addressing a press conference to some 30 journalists, televised at that.
Dhoni is a resolute leader, with definite goals and motivations. Sehwag shows the same certitude in all matters. At a press conference just before the 2011 World Cup, Sehwag was asked what he thinks of Dhoni the captain. “We are his seniors,” Sehwag said, speaking facts. “He doesn’t need to tell us what to do. We know what we have to do.”
India won the World Cup and became Test cricket’s top team with these very men. Strong personalities will have their differences, but they hurt when the team is on a losing run, and reasons for defeat unearth embarrassment.
No, say both Wadekar and Gaekwad. “Rotation should be for a time when we’re doing well, not when we’re not,” says Wadekar. “You plan for bad times when you’re doing well. When you’re in bad times, you play your best team. Playing young, inexperienced players in tough times puts pressure on them.”
That seems to be true for this tour. After six innings, Raina’s average was 22.33, Ravindra Jadeja’s 18.6; Rohit Sharma averages 15.8 from five innings. Gaekwad says when the seniors aren’t playing well, a team must play youngsters as it has nothing to lose. “If the young players aren’t doing well too, you can’t afford to experiment,” he adds.
The best Indian batsman has been Dhoni, much more at home in ODI cricket. His captaincy, though, has attracted a torrent of criticism, right from tactics to team selection. “I’ve never been a fan of his captaincy, for he’s defensive and lacks imagination,” former captain Bishan Singh Bedi says. “That became clear in the Tests, when he set defensive fields and let Australia take the initiative.”
Dhoni’s ODI runs have led to his partial rehabilitation in the affections of fans—confirming the irrationality, and brevity, of public memory. But spare a thought for Dhoni—he’s not been given the team he wanted, he’s mentally and physically fatigued. He has spoken often about a tiring excess of cricket, that he might give up Test cricket. It’s a cry for help that the BCCI has refused to heed, with Srinivasan saying stoutly: “Unless he says it officially, I would not take that seriously.”
As the notes of disharmony from Australia get louder, will someone take things seriously? We all know the answer.
Apropos the Sehwag-Dhoni rift (Fielding Restrictions, Mar 5), Dhoni should take a few tips from how the charismatic Imran Khan conducted himself when he found himself in a similar situation vis-a-vis his rebellious deputy Javed Miandad, who was blunt, outspoken and given to taking potshots at Imran at the start of his captaincy. Imran tackled it by making Javed feel important.
G. Venkatesh, Chennai
Though rifts exist between players, they surface more when a team is losing.
Krishna Pavan, on e-mail
We need a tough man at the helm. Team India should consider bringing back Greg Chappell, or even Ravi Shastri or Sourav Ganguly.
Ramana Rao, Visakhapatnam
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
“When the face loses the ‘GLOW’ and is swollen due to ‘BLOWS’ it doesn’t matter one is being punched by ‘FRIENDS’ or ‘FOES’.”
The biggest villains are Srinivasan and his set of buffons at the BCCI. Kick them out , and all will be well.
Irrespective of win or loss in a game, rifts exist betwen players. probability of them surfacing when there are losses is more.
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