Is Team India becoming a divided house?

NEW DELHI (TIP): India’s series defeat to lowly-ranked Bangladesh has allegedly brought to the fore the sense of insecurity and disquiet some team members have been experiencing, Sources say the team is not at its cohesive best.

Allegedly, there is bitterness over some players getting a long rope while others being hastily dropped or criticized in public by ODI skipper MS Dhoni.

It also hasn’t helped that Dhoni and out-of-form Test skipper Virat Kohli – also the heir apparent to the ODI hot seat -have been speaking at cross purposes about the team’s long-term vision.

Kohli has openly backed an extension for present team director Ravi Shastri, while Dhoni is still eager to talk about Duncan Fletcher’s positive impact on the team, which is now on the lookout for a new coach.

Sources reveal that Kohli and Shastri want their faster bowlers to get full backing, while Dhoni isn’t too pleased with the performance of the faster men.

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“Certain players feel insecure about Dhoni’s decision making. While some are given a long rope, others aren’t so lucky. There’s too much chopping and changing,” sources told TOI, adding, “You can see how certain players are regulars in the XI, while some others who waited for long to get in are quickly dropped. The team feels the criteria should be the same for every player.”

Earlier this week, TOI published a story in which some ex-selectors expressed misgivings about the current dual captain arrangement. The current series defeat seems to have highlighted this problem.

Dhoni, for one, has not been his usual self during the customary media interactions. For one, his best players have not delivered. He has looked under pressure and apart from hastily offering to step down in an uncharacteristic outpouring of emotion in Dhaka, he has twice pulled up individual players in public. While dropping a player is the captain’s call and cannot be argued with, Dhoni’s detailed explanation for dropping Rahane from last Sunday’s ODI was deemed unnecessary in certain quarters.

“We have seen that he (Rahane) plays a lot better on pitches that have some pace. But on a slow pitch, he does have a problem in freely rotating the strike at the start of his innings. I think Ajinkya will have to wait,” Dhoni had said. Another player indirectly hauled up was pacer Umesh Yadav, who was unimpressive in Bangladesh. Dhoni’s comment that “we need to decide whether we want really quick bowlers or bowlers who don’t bowl quickly but bowl in the right lines and lengths” has also led to some heartburn.

On the other hand, Kohli has added fuel to the fire by saying, “We have been doubtful in our decision-making and that shows on the field. I don’t need to say this. Cricket watchers and experts can see guys not sure enough to express themselves. Where we lacked in the first two games was not being able to express ourselves with clarity of mind.” What was Kohli, who is himself going through a lean patch with the bat, trying to imply? Dhoni’s comments about the bowling even prompted former India player Md Kaif -who was part of the commentary team – to tweet after the third ODI: “From a long-term perspective, what worries me is not only bowling but on-field management of bowlers by captain as well.”

A former player told TOI, “Dhoni’s handling of bowlers has always been suspect. Look at the talent he had at his disposal when he took over the reins. Around 18-19 fast bowlers have played under Dhoni and none of them were permanent in the team.”

Clearly, the Bangladesh debacle has spurred difference of opinion within the team management and players. How well the team sticks together at this hour and how leader Dhoni rallies his flock may well decide the team’s performance on the field in the near future.

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