MS Dhoni and Virender Sehwag are not bosom buddies. Just how deep the rift runs, however, came to the fore in the calamitous tour Down Under last winter. There was talk of disagreements and a very damning report of mutinous rebellion behind closed door.
The conspiracy theorists began working their brains overtime, when Sehwag was 'dropped' for the Asia Cup soon after the disastrous tour. They again smelled something foul when Sehwag was 'rested' from the Delhi Daredevils last two league matches, both against teams that could have theoretically usurped Dhoni's Chennai Super Kings.
However, the official version for all the above was Sehwag sustaining an injury, one that makes more sense than the naysayers conspiracy theories.
As teammates in the national team, the tense air between the duo can possibly be crippling, if the humiliating defeats in Australia were any indication. In the second IPL qualifier on Friday, however, it will be this very tension that drives the two individuals and their teams in a do-or-die situation.Their respective teams have taken very different paths to get here. Delhi Daredevils have set the pace all season long, before the Knight Riders got the better of them in the first qualifier. Chennai, on the other hand, knew their destiny wasn't in their hands, and were dependant on other results going their way. One after the other, all the three teams that could have knocked Chennai off their perch fell short.
Both the skippers' form mirrors that of the team. In the first phase of the tournament, Sehwag was a man possessed. He went on a tear that saw him strike five fifties on the trot, a feat nobody had achieved in the IPL's history, not even that picture of T20 consistency, Chris Gayle. However, since that streak he has plateaued, and failed to reach double digits in three of his last five innings, with a best of 23.
Dhoni, as his wont, was cool and composed in the first stage, even in the face of adversity. A man for the big stage, Dhoni almost appeared to be coasting through, playing himself lower down the order, for most of the season. It all changed in one innings.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man, goes the old adage, one that would aptly sum up Dhoni. Had it not been for the India skipper, CSK's reign as two-time IPL champions almost never happened. Two years ago, they were staring elimination when Dhoni played an innings befitting of the setting.
In Dharamsala, Dhoni took it upon himself to take his team into the finals. A year later, in the grandest stage of all Dhoni played the innings of his life to win India the World Cup. On Wednesday, it was that man again. Dhoni's 20-ball 51 was the latest in a series of game changing knocks played when it mattered most. Will he have another one of those days at the Chepauk on Friday?