The spat between MS Dhoni and Virender Sehwag, where intriguingly, the exchange of words took place through the media, could have a greater impact on Indian cricket than is being perceived at the moment. This is not just about Sehwag and his place in the team. What started it all was Dhoni's
comment, or should we say jibe, at the slowness of his senior players on the field, because of which he was being forced to rest one of the three in each game. And one of the three happens to be Sachin Tendulkar.
In living memory, this is perhaps the first time an India captain has questioned Tendulkar's place in the team. Implied in Dhoni's comment is his belief that it is not possible for him to accommodate the two — Gautam Gambhir I think is peripheral to the issue — at the same time in the squad.
Sehwag chose to retaliate, but spare a thought for Tendulkar and what must be going through his mind! He, to the surprise of many, decided to make himself available for the one-day series, and once in the team, not to pick him in the playing X1 is the most audacious decision any captain could take. That Dhoni did exactly this and went on to question his utility in public seems a childish act, something which a captain should not be doing for any member of the team, least of all the greatest of them all.
There could be valid arguments for and against Tendulkar's place in the one-day team and whether the time has come for him to retire. However, there is little doubt that he, despite his sudden and even inexplicable dip in run-making, looks a man in form. Tendulkar was India's best batsman in the first two Tests and the challenge of competing against the best in adverse conditions, perhaps one last time before he quits this format, must have been his motivation to play in the one-dayers and not just the hunt for that hundred of hundreds. His failure to take off so far, coupled with his skipper's lack of trust in him, must be a blow hard to take.
Unlike Sehwag, who used the opportunity of a press conference to air his point of view, Tendulkar keeps his own council, avoids making unnecessary comments, the reason why he has so far been untouched by controversy. It is a trait which has earned him worldwide respect and even though he will never speak, it is not hard to imagine what he must be feeling at being an "unwanted guest" in his abode.
One thing we know for sure. It is not easy to trifle with Tendulkar — even if he may be gasping for breath in running his last lap — and emerge unscathed.