Brisbane: Skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni's public dig at senior players like Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag has evoked sharp reactions and is seen as an indication of smouldering dissensions within the team.
After yet another bad day on the field which resulted in a crushing 110-run defeat for his team at the hands of Australia on Sunday, Dhoni defended the policy of rotating senior players like Tendulkar, Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir.
Dhoni's argument was that senior players were not bad fielders but on big Australian grounds they were "slightly on the slower side". This would mean an extra 20 runs to the opposition.
Tendulkar may be 39 but is a good fielder in the slips and has an excellent throw from anywhere in the field while Gambhir, who at 30 is of the same age as his captain, fields close-in in Test matches and has a safe pair of hands anywhere. Only Sehwag's fielding is not sharp.
Inclusion of Gambhir in the rotational policy despite being a good fielder and scoring two 90-plus scores in the current ODI series and persistent inclusion of consistent failures Suresh Raina and Rohit Sharma has given rise to speculation about dressing room dissensions.
Gambhir had gone public with his criticism of Dhoni stretching the game against Sri Lanka at Adelaide saying that the match should not have gone till the 50th over and should have been finished two or three overs earlier.
In response, Dhoni dismissed this as a difference in perspective, adding "there is nothing wrong between us".
After disastrous tours of England and Australia, Dhoni's hold on captaincy, certainly in Tests, appears to be tenuous and this has sown seeds of ambition among some other players to be Test captain. New coach Duncan Fletcher, under attack for the team's failures, is hardly in a position to sort things out.
Besides the controversy surrounding the rotational policy, other aspects of Dhoni's captaincy have been baffling.
During the Test series he was criticised for being defensive besides earning a one-Test ban for slow over rate.
In the ODIs he has been brilliant with the bat but has the ignominy of being banned for Tuesday's match against Sri Lanka because of slow over rate in the tie with Australia. The team is thus deprived of its best batsman in a crucial tie.
Dhoni could easily have avoided this ban by using his lone spinner Ravindra Jadeja on Sunday to speed up the over rate. But he did not get a single over while medium pacers who went for runs galore were persisted with.
Dhoni's obsession with the rotational policy has been a matter of debate with opinions divided on it. Some believe that the policy was necessary to groom youngsters but critics argue that India should play their best XI in every match.
Application of the rotation policy only to three players has baffled observers with critics regarding it as a ploy to ensure that two Dhoni favourites - Raina and Sharma - continue to play at the expense of others.
Tendulkar has been a failure in the ODI series and Sehwag in both Tests and ODIs. But Sharma and Raina, the players for whom the rotational policy appears to be customised, have fared no better.
Youngster Manoj Tiwary has not had a single opportunity in the five ODIs India have played so far in the current series although he made a hundred in his last international outing against West Indies.
Former Indian skipper Ravi Shastri called for a review of the rotational policy after India's defeat at the Gabba here.
"After their loss on Sunday, India will now have to assess if rotation is till the right way to go or if the best XI should play. The time for shadow play is over," Shastri said.
Former Indian cricketer and now a commentator Sanjay Manjrekar though would like to see fielding given the top priority.
"For me, the reason teams like Australia and West Indies reigned at the top for a long time was because both skills and fitness were an integral part of their cricket.
"India very often will disregard fitness for skills. If India needs to rule world cricket over a length of time, fitness has to be non-negotiable," Manjrekar said.
Voices within the team tend to disagree with Dhoni's remarks about the fielding capabilities of the seniors.
Says one, "India won the 2011 World Cup because of its batting ability. The one in 2007 (Twenty20 World Cup in South Africa) was claimed due to batting." Gautam Gambhir's 75 and Yuvraj Singh's six sixes are still fresh in mind.