India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni lit a fire around him, but he didn’t like it when it singed him. It was Dhoni who said there was ‘unrest’ in the dressing room in Brisbane last Friday, and that the response from the management should have been better. It broke the convention of keeping dressing room matters within the bunch.
HT had reported that the ‘unrest’ which Dhoni mentioned was an altercation between Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan, after the latter’s inability to bat on the fourth morning following a hit on the wrist while batting in the nets forced the in-form Kohli to rush out.
It took two days of silence for Dhoni to respond, and it was the usual automated, oft-recycled reply. And he stuck to a narrative of denial which has been exercised many a times in the past by the Indian cricket establishment.
When asked about the dressing room fracas, Dhoni chose to begin jocular: “Actually... Virat used a knife and he stabbed Shikhar. When he recovered, we pushed him out to bat.” After that, he went on to trivialise it further: “These are all stories (that) Marvel-Warner Brothers should pick up and make a movie out of.”Audio from press conference
He then got serious: “I don’t know where it comes from. Someone from the team has actually told you this... it will be interesting if you give us the name (that) this is the individual who said this.... this is what happened... because his imagination is really brilliant and he should be working for Warner Brothers movie company. And, he doesn’t deserve to be in our dressing room because he has created something that hasn’t been there at all. Stuff like that makes good stories for the tabloid, and maybe it helps them sell. As far as reality is concerned there is nothing like that.”
As things stand within that dressing room, anyway, the captain couldn’t have said anything else. After all, a confirmation would only further accentuate poor management of the issue. Hardly the thing India need when 0-2 down in this Test series. A denial, especially by trivialising the incident, is the obvious thing to do.
There is a history to this sort of response. This is not the first incident that the India team has tried to wriggle out of through fanciful excuses. To quell media questioning during the World T20 in England in 2009, after fallout between Dhoni and his then deputy Virender Sehwag was reported extensively, the entire team showed up holding hands and were paraded in Nottingham in front of the media to send out a message of unity.
The war of words between Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan in the dressing room had to be settled by team director Ravi Shastri. (Getty Images file photo)
A year later, at the World T20 in the West Indies, the team crashed out of the tournament and a few players got into a fight with fans at a pub. A day later, team coach Gary Kirsten lashed out at underperforming players over their fitness and attitude. The team was yet again in denial, and shied away from facing the media as they flew back immediately after. Later, the BCCI took cognisance of the matter and issued showcause notices to several players who were involved in the matter.
Another war of words broke out between the senior players and the team captain when Dhoni’s method of chasing was questioned by his team mates, especially Gautam Gambhir, during an ODI match at the Adelaide Oval in 2012. Yet, ‘all is well’ was the message the team vehemently tried to force upon the media. Gambhir was soon made to pay for his outburst by being sidelined.
In 2013, when the team was to depart for the Champions Trophy in England, the skipper chose to keep mum on several questions around spot-fixing incidents, beaming beatifically in response to pertinent queries. The lesson for the BCCI from that questioning was to cancel the pre-departure press conference for two subsequent tours.
In the present matter involving Virat Kohli and Shikhar Dhawan, it has also been learnt that the BCCI has asked the tour manager for a detailed report. If it was nothing or a figment of imagination that would make a good movie plot then why would the BCCI want a report? Consistent denial is a policy that this team has maintained over the last few years. To expect an honest reply suddenly would be too much of a fantasy.