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Captain Cool loses it

Get a press pass and make your way to an India press conference at the earliest

MS Dhoni addresses the media, Lord's, May 31, 2009
Not smiling anymore, apparently © Getty Images

If you're in the vicinity of an Indian team's press conference, do drop in. If you have the appropriate pass hanging around your neck, that is. You won't be disappointed or bored.

We had a public display of unity followed by a walkout from the Indian team the day before the game against Bangladesh. They were responding to reports of an alleged rift between the captain and his deputy. Tuesday's media opportunity with MS Dhoni degenerated into a shouting match. It made for excellent reality TV, if that's your thing.

You could see it coming. The team management decided not to make a player available to the media after optional practice on Monday. When told by reporters the ICC had sent out a release saying a player would be available to the media, the media manager responded by asking to see the email, and pointed out astutely that it actually said a player was merely "expected to be available", a phrase that meant something drastically different. The expectations were never fulfilled.

The story of the day had evaporated. Waking up early on a frigid and windy morning had amounted to nothing. Desperate times call for desperate measures and the person in highest demand that morning was the bemused man from a bat manufacturer's, who had come to show Dhoni a few bats. He must have felt like a celebrity.

Tuesday was different. For starters, the ICC's media release said unequivocally, "Dhoni will hold a media conference". It was down in black and white, leaving the Indian team no get-out clause. And then Virender Sehwag batted in the nets for the first time during the competition, but only for 10 minutes. There was word that he was out of the competition, but only few knew for sure.

The first question put to Dhoni, who turned up without his team-mates this time, at the press conference was about Sehwag's fitness. The captain swatted it away with a majestic air of finality by saying, "Anything related to fitness, there will be a press release from the BCCI". He wasn't lying.

Having been snubbed by that terse response, no one asked a question about Sehwag for a while. It was the elephant in the room, and 20 minutes later someone began to talk about it. This time the media manager intervened and said the board would send out a release. His answer didn't satisfy anyone, for the question was asked again, this time pointedly to Dhoni, who repeated his lines. It was pandemonium after that, with people losing tempers and the usually uber-calm Dhoni showing traces of losing composure. Just when things were getting to a head, the team manager stepped in heroically and diffused the volatile situation with expert negotiation skills. A truce was brokered - a final decision on Sehwag's fitness would be taken on Wednesday. Or so we were told.

By the time we walked back to the press box, a media release from the BCCI had arrived in our inboxes, informing us that Sehwag had been ruled out of the tournament because of a shoulder injury. India's next press conference will probably be after the Ireland game at the squash courts in Trent Bridge. Get hold of that pass now.

George Binoy is a senior sub-editor at Cricinfo

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