Dhoni blames media for rift reports
Was the media at fault for talk of a rift in the Indian team, as MS Dhoni has claimed? ESPNcricinfo provides transcripts of the relevant press conferences*.
MS Dhoni has blamed the media for quoting him selectively to Virender Sehwag, to elicit replies that suggested a grave communication gap in the team. He said no such problem existed, and there was no need to straighten it out. He did, though, say it created an awkward situation because it was possible Sehwag might have actually believed what the press told him. He hadn't, Dhoni added.
However, a reading of the transcripts (below) of the two press conferences in question confirm a variance in statements between the captain and his deputy.
"You must have asked him something," Dhoni said at his pre-match press conference on Saturday. "Why don't you ask yourself the same question?
"You have the press conference on tape. It will be interesting if you watch the whole press conference. You will get the answer yourself of what exactly I said. And what exactly I meant. Often what's important is, you can't see just that particular answer. Maybe the build-up from the first question as to what you are answering [is important]. Often we don't answer because the first part of the first question that we answer is actually an answer of the second question or the third question. If you see the whole press conference, it will offer a valid point as to what was said."
Dhoni said the dressing-room had had a good laugh at the reports. Asked if he was happy with the communication flow within the team, Dhoni said, "Yeah, yeah. It has always been there. It is not this series or last series. It has been perfect. And we enjoy it actually when things like this happened. It's the talk of the dressing room. We try to get the positives out of it. It's half an hour of good talk in the dressing room, because that's the best we can get out of it."
Reproduced below are excerpts from the two said press conferences with all relevant questions and the build-up that led to Dhoni and Sehwag saying what they did.
The first one is, from February 19, after India had lost to Australia. This is MS Dhoni answering questions.
Q: MS, you mentioned that the top order needs to perform, but we are in the second stage of this tournament. Do you reckon the best XI should be playing now? Or do you want to continue…
Dhoni: You have to see what the best XI is. If you talk about the best XI being the players who have scored runs in the tournament then also we may find it difficult to feature the XI. Or if you talk about the number of games we have played or the experienced guys have played, so it's about everyone going. Everybody needs to contribute. Gautam has done well, he needs to keep on going because he is among the senior guys who will be batting up the order. Then you have Virat who has done well, Rohit who is getting his chances and then Raina also. So we need to contribute as a unit, and that's what should be the key. You want to field a very good fielding side also. We have seen in these close games that you can't really afford to score always 20 more runs just because your fielding is not good enough on the big field. We have to be careful and hopefully it will be sorted out.
Q: Is this series more about bringing something home after a disastrous Test series or is it about building a team for the 2015 World Cup?
Dhoni: It should be both because you want to do well. As I said you know the opposition team played well, they outplayed you but at the end of the day you feel bad, in the sense if you are not winning games you feel bad. We want to get a bit of both. You want the youngsters to play the games but of course we need to get into the finals first because it's important to get into the finals. Then it's a three match series in the finals. You have to be consistent in two games to win the tournament. But you want to see these youngsters, they will be coming here again and again. Maybe for the next World Cup also. They should know how you need to play in these situations or conditions against a bowling attack that is world class, so overall you want to get the best for the side.
Q: Coming back to what you say, will there be a scenario - we are at the business end of the tournament, you haven't made the final yet - will there be a scenario where you play all three - Sachin, Sehwag and Gambhir?
Dhoni: That may happen. It will affect our fielding in a big way, which means there will be more pressure on the batsmen to score those extra 20 runs, but if the middle order does not perform consistently well you may have to go with the experienced guys at the top of the order, and let the scoring do, you know, from the bottom-most batsmen. In the sense, 5, 6 and 7.
[A break, and then this question.]
Q: You spoke about the fielding in the case you play all the three seniors. Is it really - suppose if Viru [who didn't play that day] plays instead of either Rohit or Raina, is it worth 20 extra runs in the field?
Dhoni: Definitely. Because people often talk about that one run, but that one run that you save, it changes the strike and if the next ball, the batsman plays a big shot - a six or a four, it can have a big impact. If you see, the last few games that we played, we got two or three run outs and that really had a big impact.
Also, what we need to see, it's not only these three players that we are talking about. We also have quite a few other players who are slow on the field. It will just add on to that and we will be left with just two or three really good fielders. It's not that these fielders are bad but for this environment and these conditions and big outfields, they are slightly on the slower side. They will be exploited. Once the ball goes to them, the Australians or the Sri Lankans will try to exploit the doubles or three runs. It means it will put more pressure on their body because the throwing needs to be good and the diving needs to be good, so they will be under constant pressure. So ultimately it will be a pressure game.
This was reported as it was, and two days later Virender Sehwag took questions.
Q: Do you agree with Dhoni when he says that you, Sachin and Gambhir can't be played together in the same XI because you are slow fielders?
Sehwag: I don't think so, we played together in the World Cup and we won games. Just because we want to give chances to youngsters and it's good for every team, just keep rotating players and they will get good ... and they will be fresh for next game, so that's what I think.
[A break, and then this question.]
Q: Were you surprised when you heard that Dhoni came out and said if you three play together, you will concede 20 runs more. And did you have a chat with him?
Sehwag: No we didn't know that. I didn't know what he said and what's going on in media. But we decided, we had a meeting, he chatted with everyone, with Gautam and myself and Tendulkar. He explained that he wanted to give chances to youngsters, so youngsters can play all the matches here, and the next World Cup is also here, so they'll get to know the idea of how the wickets behave in Australia, so when they come for next World Cup, so they will prepare themselves.
Q: The thrust of Dhoni's argument the other night was that top three batsmen - you, Gautam and Sachin - could concede 20 runs extra. Good fielders but slow fielders.
Sehwag: We are same for the last 10 years. Nothing has changed.
Q: Even if you concede 20 runs extra, Sehwag plays a big knock, you win the match single-handedly. These youngsters are saving 20 runs, but aren't scoring…
Sehwag: You have to ask Dhoni again. What he told us is, he has to give chances to youngsters. They will come here and play the next World Cup. That's what he told us.
Q: Will you have a chat with him?
Sehwag: Why should I have a chat with him? When he has said he is the captain, he is the leader, if he and coach thinks we should give breaks to the top order, that's fine, I am okay with that. I don't have any issues with that.
[A break again.]
Q: Do you feel you, Tendulkar and Gambhir are liabilities in the field?
Sehwag: Have you seen my catch?
Q: You said that the reason given to you three separately was they wanted to give the youngsters more chances. Now, you come to know through us that the other night another reason was given. Will you now have a chat with him?
Sehwag: I am available for all the matches. It depends on the captain and the coach what XI they will pick. If they give me the reason that we want to give chances to youngsters and you take a break, I am happy with that.
*07:54 GMT, Feb 26: This article's introduction has been changed
Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo