New Delhi: Against the backdrop of India's dismal performances in Mumbai and Kolkata, which have led to the hosts trailing England 1-2 heading into the final Test in Nagpur starting Thursday, Cricketnext has learned that MS Dhoni is not pleased with Gautam Gambhir's attitude and on-field ethics.
A member of the Indian team, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told this website that Dhoni feels that Gambhir puts his interest above the team and has become too self-centred and that the Indian captain has gone to the extent of lodging a complaint to the BCCI tagging Gambhir's approach as 'selfish' and 'hurtful to the team'.
"Of late Gambhir has gone into a shell and focusing on just to save his place in the team. His prolonged poor form has resulted in low self-esteem and he's cut off from other issues pertaining to the team," said the player. "But what irked Dhoni was Gambhir playing for himself and not for the team. It was evident in the way Gambhir batted in the second innings of the Mumbai Test that he was more interested in carrying his bat by remaining not out, rather than shielding the tailenders and scoring quick runs.
"What possibly could be the reason behind taking singles off the first or second ball of an over and exposing the tailenders to Graeme Swann and Monty Panesar on a rank turner? India needed some runs on the board to give something to their bowlers. Every run was crucial but Gambhir chose to be a mute spectator. The whole world saw that and everyone was taken aback. The effort to contribute to the team wasn't there. Look how well R Ashwin batted with maturity during his unbeaten 91 in the Kolkata Test and he isn't a specialist batsman. He shepherded the tailenders superbly and scored vital runs. If Ashwin can do, why couldn't Gambhir?"
While assuaging thoughts of any bad blood between Dhoni and Gambhir, the source did, however, cite the run-outs of Virender Sehwag in the first innings of the Kolkata Test and Cheteshwar Pujara in the second as moments which precipitated India's downfall and left Dhoni miffed with Gambhir's current approach.
"On both occasions, Gambhir was at fault. While there were clearly three runs in Sehwag's case which Gambhir declined, the call for a run to Pujara was ill-judged. He was having a tough time against Steven Finn and wanted to get off the strike. His desperation cost Pujara his wicket. Dhoni doesn't have doubts about his integrity or commitment," he said. "Gambhir, obviously, didn't do anything deliberately. It's just that in his struggle to overcome poor form, he is overlooking team's interest and remains oblivious of team goals. This has not gone down well with Dhoni, who is determined to win the Nagpur Test and level the series, and he conveyed his thoughts to the BCCI officials in no uncertain terms.
"Dhoni and Gambhir are cordial with each other. Gambhir has scored a couple of half-centuries in the series and seems like getting his old form back. If he could clear the unwarranted cobwebs from his head, he's a fierce competitor. He has the backing of the team. One of the BCCI officials will speak to Gambhir before the match and the matter will be sorted out. It is important that all the members take the field in the last Test with the motto of giving their best shot," he concluded.
Meanwhile, a source close to Gambhir asserted that though the opener hasn't performed to the potential in this series, Dhoni is playing gimmicks to undermine Gambhir. "Dhoni's captaincy is under fire. He's being censured by one and all. His place in the Test team is questioned; his defensive and unimaginative mindset as a captain is unmasked, so he's trying to pass the buck and blame others - whether his batsmen, spinners, Sehwag and now Gambhir - to save his face," said the source. "He sees Gambhir as a potential threat to his captaincy and wants to undermine him. Mohinder Amarnath has tipped Gambhir to take over the captaincy from Dhoni and proclaimed that Dhoni uses his clout in the BCCI to push his agenda. He thinks that he can dictate terms in every matter. Look what happened during the Eden Gardens pitch episode? It's there for everyone to see. Gambhir has not set the stage on fire but he has demonstrated defiance in this series and a big score is just around the corner."
The Indian cricket team is going through its worst phase in the last two decades having lost 10 of its last 16 Test matches. They are not the force they were once, even on the home soil. England clobbered India in consecutive Test matches in Mumbai and Kolkata to take 2-1 lead in the four-Test series. The flaming backlash by media and the internal bickering in the team have made the matters worse. Vociferous calls are made by former cricketers to axe a few senior players and strip Dhoni of the captaincy.