Thursday, February 23, 2012

Staring down the abyss

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It wasn't too long ago that India had scaled the ODI peak by winning the World Cup. Tendulkar declared Dhoni to be the best captain that he had played under. It was Team India and not a collection of individuals anymore. We had declared that the team had been cast in Dhoni's image of being calm, cool and collected against the highest of odds.

Alas, it didn't last! Historically, India had never fielded unified teams. The feuds between stars are well known. Most times these feuds impacted the team's performances but sometimes they came together for the collective good. Sports persons are strong personalities. They usually require emotion to fuel their intensity and deliver great performances. Superb individual efforts often inspire team efforts of success.

On the ODI front, Tendulkar alone seems to have inspired stroke play hitherto not the forte of India. Often we had marveled at Pakistan's ability to produce the Inzy's out of nowhere to shred bowling attacks. Recently however, India laid claim to that title of inspired, jaw-dropping stroke play with Sehwag, Gambhir, Dhoni, Raina and Yuvraj leading the charge.

Sehwag has been a misfit in the ODI squad for quite a while and we had advocated dropping him completely from the World Cup squad. However, most people are willing to let Sehwag play for that occasional enormous innings that he plays like the recent 219 and the opening salvo he fired in the World Cup against Bangladesh.

Perhaps, the Indian team's astounding ODI performances had led to a happy dressing room and maybe not being accustomed to failure, harsh emotional exchanges had been rare or non-existent. Dhoni didn't need to perhaps assert himself on the team because the team was delivering without his inspiration. This is all theory and speculation.

Post World Cup, however, it appears that the team has begun to fall apart. Dhoni and the "seniors" in particular seem to be at odds with each other. In my opinion, Gambhir and Sehwag are deliberately undermining the captain and it is pretty sad. The captain is first among equals and he deserves the support of the team members, senior or otherwise. Every team member is a significant member and for Sehwag and Gambhir to claim some special exemption from a policy that the captain seeks to implement is quite sad.

Having said that, Dhoni's lack of ability to navigate the shark infested "senior waters" is telling. We would all want the captain to be the ultimate diplomat, salesman, motivator, evangelist and handsome to boot. Unfortunately, Jesus Christ died on a cross 2000 years ago and Gandhi didn't play cricket very well. We are still researching to find out if Jesus played any sports. Judging by Tendulkar's statements, Dhoni must be the best person to be captain of the team.

To me Sehwag dropping Rohit Sharma and making him a pawn in the game of team politics is pathetic. Sharma needed a confidence boost and I think this latest act of political doo doo would have done him no good. I hope Tendulkar is taking the time to help the young batsman stay focused on his cricket. Sehwag seems to have made it a point to drop Sharma to rub Dhoni the wrong way. For the BCCI to ask Dhoni and Sehwag to work it out and not instantly drop Sehwag is another pathetic attempt at non-leadership. Insubordination is a big deal and should be treated as such.

If a future inquiry reveals Dhoni's motives to be suspect, by all means Sehwag should be brought back. But to openly rebel against the skipper's stated policy is shameful. Coming from a mediocre ODI performer it's even more pathetic. For all of Sehwag's inspired test match stroke play, his recent captaincy performance deserves be to condemned. Putting his personal vendetta over the team is miserable. My respect for Sehwag has nosedived.

I had thought Gambhir to be an emotional, yet smart player. I also respected his captaincy credentials and thought him to be the man best suited to take over after Dhoni, should Dhoni have given up test matches. Kohli would be the future leader, but it would be another 6-8 years before he was ready. But by undermining the skipper, Gambhir deserves a reprimand too. None of Gambhir's and Sehwag's actions are helpful to the team, regardless of whether the rotation policy is the right policy.

Dhoni is still captain and he deserves to be allowed to succeed or fail on his merits. Back-stabbers like Sehwag and Gambhir will do it to other skippers whose policies they don't like. It's dangerous to pamper them.


Soulberry said...

To me Sehwag dropping Rohit Sharma and making him a pawn in the game of team politics is pathetic

Agree. The very reason I believe disciplinary action must be taken against Sehwag.

If he had dropped Rohit for cricketing reasons, or even those given out by Dhoni for his rotation policy, might have been admissible, but this was blatantly political. Cannot be encouraged.

Govind Raj said...

Sehwag and Gautam have played too much politics. But Dhoni hasn't covered himself in glory. He has constantly favored his own set of players and done his best to oust Yusuf Pathan, sideline Irfan, demoralize Amit Mishra and prop up guys like Parthiv, Jadeja and Vinay Kumar.

I believe the factionalism has come back in a BIG way and must be the biggest since the Gavaskar - Kapil Dev feud.

Best way is to drop all seniors from Asia Cup and bring them under a roof to let them know nonsense will not be tolerated !

But first thing first, "Sehwag needs to be sent home right now, midway through the series and Gambhir be told to fall in line or face the consequences"

Does the BCCI have the guts ?

Vaibhav Sharma said...

These feuds and rifta always happen when a team is performing badly. I just hope Indian ODI team gets back on track soon as only then would these rifts, politics tec would get over.

Bala said...

I feel the problem stems from the fact that the 'Rotation policy' has been devised as nobody had the guts to drop sehwag or Sachin due to bad performance. Now Dhoni played his bit of politics by attacking the fielding skills of the seniors as the reason for the rotation policy. Sehwag and Ghambir are not saints like Dravid to let a insult like this pass away without a ny response. This was expected of them.

Golandaaz said...


I welcome Sehwag having captaincy aspirations. Dhoni's statements wrt Tests reveal that we will soon need a new test captain and if Sehwag wants to campaign for the job, I see nothing wrong.

However, I have to agree with you that as a VC he should work within Dhoni's vision.

This obvious rift is very unfortunate. Also leads me to wonder what role Sachin is playing in either fueling it or curbing it. The time for Sachin to retire gracefully is long gone and the tamasha that is unfolding in a way hurts his legacy.

But coming back to Sehwag, I feel he is on a destructive path. His 'soft' comment I thought was in reference to Sachin. He seems to disillusioned with everything around him. A forced break will do him good

Vidooshak said...

Gol -

Sehwag's actions rule him out of captaincy in my opinion. Someone who cannot follow in adversity cannot and will not gain the respect of team-mates when his own strategy and vision comes into question. Everyone will point to his own destructive behavior. Sehwag is passe in my opinion. He should be dumped even before Sachin.

thecricketcouch said...

Gol - As you have mentioned, sports teams, which are nothing but a collection of strong willed individuals, will always have clashes of ideas, opinions and egos. When the team is winning, all that gets swept under the carpet and when the team is not delivering on the field, it is used a tool to explain away the non-performance, not by the players, but the people covering the team.

Take the case of Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal. Two of the most dominant players ever to have played Basketball. We'll probably never see a behemoth with the agility of Shaq and only Michael Jordan may stand in the way of Kobe being the greatest in terms of Basketball skills and competitiveness on the court. Very strong willed persons, tremendous abilities and ENORMOUS egos. They made it work because they wanted to win. AS long as they were winning championships, it was all kept under wraps but there were always reports of simmering tension between the two. The moment they went two years without winning a championship, it came to a head and one of them had to be let go from the team (Shaq).

Similarly, this rift between Dhoni and the "Delhi gang" has been going on since 08-09 but it is being made to be the centerpiece now, as the team's performance is reaching levels of piss poor to rock bottom.

To waste our breath on this is pointless.

As to Sehwag dropping Rohit Sharma, I just want to point out that it is conjecture on your part that Politics was involved. By making baseless statements like that, we are doing disservice, as there is no right or wrong way to approach a solution in sports. In all fairness, Sehwag (Captain of the day) may have thought it was better to give Sharma a break from the poor string of scores and allow him to collect his thoughts. This may or may not have been the team management's thoughts as well. So, to flatly accuse Sehwag of playing politics and making Rohit a pawn in this, is sensationalism, IMHO. We should stay away from that. There are enough talking heads on TV and global cricket sites to make that bidding.

More Than Just A Game said...

Very interesting article indeed!

I've been trying to make up my mind a little on the whole issue of Sehwag's latest foot-in-mouth incident (maybe a little too much is being read into it?). 1 point and 1 question though:

1. You mentioned Gambhir too- while I completely agree on your take of him being a somewhat emotional, but smart and useful player (tends to show up in big games ), what did he do in this specific situation? I've been trying to find out if he made any asinine comments/ or acted irresponsibly , but can't find much on him with respect to this topic yet. Can you help me out here?

2. About Sehwag dropping Rohit in the last game - great points all around but it has me torn.
Was it completely clear that the "Rotation Policy" was a team philosophy or the decision of the coach and captain? If it was clarified that there was no philosophy , and that it was just an individual's decision, then I do think Sehwag, as a captain for that particular game, has the right to choose his playing XI. Whether it was best for the team or not is debatable.

More Than Just A Game said...

I was the "Anonymous" guy who was struggling with the signing in here !

Just wanted to say ABSOLUTELY spot on to TheCricketCouch. Exactly what i wanted to say (though I did it terribly!).

Vidooshak said...

Dhoni had specifically stated that the top order was being rotated to give Rohit Sharma games. Given that the next world cup was in Australia, he said that he wanted Rohit (who would likely be a key player then) to get to play all the games.

Sehwag was a stand-in captain. I can't agree that he has an inherent right to choose a team disregarding the team strategy of grooming Rohit Sharma.

Gambhir's role has been playing up the finishing off games aspect. At first it appeared to be an innocous comment, but if you read Sid Monga's piece in cricinfo, it assumes some nasty forms in the larger context.

I think egos are normal, but dumping Rohit against Dhoni's publicly stated strategy is a clear poke in the eye and it just sucks. It's going to be very hard for the team to get over this kind of stuff.

Dhoni is the captain, whether Sehwag likes it or not. Sehwag is a soldier. Unlike Basketball, there is a clear captain nominated in cricket. We support back-stabbers at our own peril.

Golandaaz said...

TCC, Of course there will be clashes of ideas and yes they must have been commonplace even when we were winning. I hope that is the case.

But Sehwag dropping Rohit being dirty is a accusation that is not entirely baseless. I think it is fair to make the assumption Vidooshak is making

Dhoni spoke about the rotaiton policy to the media, so I am assuming it was common knowledge to all in the team.

If you are suggesting that Dhoni simply made it up without communicating it to the team, then you are implicating Dhoni just as we are implicating Sehwag

The point is not whether Sehwag should be made captain. He is entitled to seek that job if he wants it. If you ask me Kohli is a realistic choice. Azhar turned out just fine....well almost :-)

More Than Just A Game said...

They should probably have a rotation policy for the stand-in captain too (when Dhoni invariably serves out his frequent suspensions!). Sehwag doesn't make much sense as a captain because he might not be there in the next world cup! :) It should be rotated between Raina, Rohit, Jadeja and Kohli (a split of 25 overs each). I kid! :)

By the way, Virat "Let me show them the birdie" Kohli for captain?

Vidooshak said...


Good point about Kohli..Hopefully, he'll mature in time and be ready for the mantle.

Nice take on stand-in captains.

While on the subject...BCCI is a factional organization..They wouldn't know how a captain feels when undermined...Sehwag-like behavior is what they probably indulge in day-in and day out.