Jaspreet Sahni: When players start proving points in public, then a feud is to be blamed for the loss, not poor form.
Stroke the ego of an Indian cricketer these days and smut will roll out. "Seniors are slow in the field," Dhoni says one day. "We're the same for the last 10 years," Sehwag retorts on the other. "Rotating the openers because of their slow fielding." Dhoni clarifies one evening. "Ask Dhoni again. What he told us was to give chance to youngsters," Sehwag snaps on another. India are in Australia to play cricket, but that's the only thing the team isn't doing.
Miss practice, go shopping or for that matter sun-bathe at the Bondi beach. What leisure! But put them in the Gabba heat and all that melts out is a blame game after another loss. We are the World Champions, at least the tag says so!
Losing in sport is a given, but when players begin proving points in front of the mic, then a feud is to be blamed for the loss, not poor form. MS Dhoni and Virender Sehwag have opened a can of worms, where both are wrong on some counts and right on some.
The same players who were world beaters until the World Cup have become 'slow' for Dhoni after two overseas debacles. Dhoni's wrong there! The players aren't learning from their mistakes, which is costing the team dearly. Here Dhoni is right! Sehwag's careless dismissals smell of stubborn approach, yet he demands a place in the team. That's wrong! But he can't be dropped for being 'slow'. That’s an acceptable stand!
And where both Dhoni and Sehwag are wrong is letting these differences out of the dressing room. That's where they are hurting the team spirit and the role of coach Duncan Fletcher is questionable.
Staying fit is a player's responsibility, keeping them fit is the physio's and monitoring both is the job of the captain and coach. So when Dhoni says the players are 'slow', does he mean they are unfit? If yes, then the chain is ruptured somewhere. And if Dhoni feels the reflexes of seniors are slow, then he is fighting against nature, as ageing will take its toll.
A word here for the 30-plus lot. True that the stature of this team is because of the Tendulkars and Sehwags, but it's time that they adjust their roles a bit here. They need to be a statesman now and stimulate adrenaline of the younger lot. Honestly, if Tendulkar can choose which series he wants to play, then – with his current age and form – the team can also choose when he should play and when not. And that criteria is not just reserved for Tendulkar, but for every non-performing player, especially those catching up with age.
But one thing that can't wait for Dhoni and Sehwag to shut up or Tendulkar to make a choice is the game itself. Australia seem to have understood it through Ricky Ponting's case. Their focus is more on the game than the stature of a player, which is exactly opposite to what always happens in India. But other than getting over this individualistic approach, the team has to stay united, which is hardly the case with India at present.