New Delhi: The alleged, and apparent, rift between the Indian captain MS Dhoni and Virender Sehwag has hogged the media limelight for quite some time now. The seeds of unrest were sown during the final of the inaugural ICC World Twenty20 final in 2007 when Dhoni dropped Sehwag and pitch-forked an uncapped Yusuf Pathan in the team. Since then reams have been written about the two senior cricketers being at loggerheads with each other.
Recently, Dhoni dropped Sehwag from India's XI for the World Twenty20 Super Eights match against Australia which sparked off a kerfuffle. Dhoni opted to open the innings with Irfan Pathan as India were pulverized by nine wickets and eventually couldn't make it to the semi-finals.
In a sensational revelation, a BCCI official, on the condition of anonymity, told Cricketnext that when Dhoni conveyed his decision to Sehwag to drop him for the crucial game against Australia, the opener was irate. A blazing tiff ensued and Dhoni ended up accusing Sehwag of deliberately under-performing to undermine his captaincy. Things came to a head and top brass of the BCCI had to intervene and placate the simmering row.
"When Sehwag angrily questioned Dhoni's decision to leave him out for the crucial match, Dhoni shot back and questioned Sehwag's loyalty towards the team," said the official. "Dhoni told Sehwag that he was in superb touch during IPL 5 while he was captaining Delhi Daredevils but had done little of note in last two years in all formats during his captaincy. Sparks flew thick and fast and high authorities of the BCCI had to intervene and diffuse the tension."
He continued: "Dhoni feels that Sehwag doesn't perform to his full potential and is very reckless in his approach. He probably thinks that Sehwag is forging a faction in the team to turn a few key players against him and usurp the captaincy. Sehwag's ambition to lead the Indian side is well known. Sehwag, on the other hand, feels he is hard done by Dhoni on several occasions. He thinks Dhoni lends patronage to lesser-talented cricketers like Ravindra Jadeja, RP Singh and Piyush Chawla but never misses a chance to queer his pitch."
The official also said that Dhoni's walking away with a major part of the applause for India’s triumph in the 2011 World Cup did not go down well with Sehwag. "He [Sehwag] strongly believed it was a team effort. Since then, things went from bad to worse and he made several statements claiming that India won the trophy because of strong team and not due to Dhoni's outstanding leadership."
Meanwhile, a source close to Sehwag dismissed talk of him under-performing. "Sehwag has been playing for India for 12 years and established himself as one of the greatest batsmen India have ever produced. It is deplorable to question Sehwag's commitment to the team," he told Cricketnext. "Sehwag was hurt when he was axed from the team for big matches on a number of times like the final of the 2007 World Twenty20 and the CB Series final against Australia in 2008 when Robin Uthappa replaced him, but he doesn't harbour animosity against Dhoni.
"He has performed brilliantly under Dhoni's captaincy between 2008 and 2010 so how could he possibly undermine Dhoni? Sehwag is the kind of batsman who thrives on self-belief and confidence. A captain must show faith in his abilities but this has not been the case of late. He felt unwanted in the team at times and his confidence eroded. Team management must not fiddle with his confidence. Sehwag is a man of steely temperament and he'll bounce back very soon."
Madan Lal, the former Indian allrounder and coach, has followed Sehwag's career very closely and believes that Sehwag cannot afford to under-perform as no player can take his place in the team for granted. "Sehwag is a special talent but even he can't afford to take his place for granted in the team. No player can think of under-performing as your place would be under scanner. Sehwag was dropped on a few occasions because his form was patchy," he said. "He's a mature and sensible cricketer. I've known him for years and he will never indulge in such petty shenanigans. As for a rift between Dhoni and Sehwag, I think the media is blowing it out of proportion. There might be a difference of opinion, which is natural in a team sport, but I don't see anything more to it. Ultimately, the collective objective of the team is to perform well on the field for their country and all other issues are peripheral."