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Dhoni, Sehwag Camps At Loggerheads Over Selection: Reports

PTI 25 Jan 2010, 11:47:55 IST

India made as many as four changes for the Mirpur Test but leg-spinner Amit Mishra's non-selection remained the big talking point of the day. Skipper MS Dhoni, who returned for the Test, decided to bring in left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha instead as Harbhajan Singh came back after recovering from a stiff neck, leaving no place for Mishra. 

No explanations were forthcoming on why a major performer in the first Test and a more experienced campaigner than Ojha was left out. 

As speculation gained ground over non-cricketing issues being responsible for the decision, team sources denied that Mishra fell victim to a rift in the team camp, says a Times of India report. 

Mishra, who had replaced Harbhajan in the first Test in Chittagong - in which Virender Sehwag had taken on leadership duties - became only the second Indian player, after Sunil Joshi, to post a half-century and claim seven wickets or more in a Test against Bangladesh. His crucial second-innings half-century as nightwatchman and figures of 3/66 and 4/92 in a 113-run win would suggest he had done enough to remain in the team as the second spinner in case of Harbhajan returning to play in the second Test. 

With Dhoni regaining fitness, though, the team management had other plans. Late on Saturday, a TV channel reported of a possible rift in the team over selection. The channel said it had accessed documents suggesting that Mishra was included in the initial playing XI, but the name was struck off after a team meeting on the eve of the game and replaced with Ojha. 

The change was done at skipper Dhoni's behest and a heated debate had taken place in the meeting, the channel claimed. Although the official announcement of the playing XI came only on Sunday, the final composition was leaked to sections of the media on Saturday itself. Selection committee members refused to be drawn into the matter but it is clear the incident has taken everyone by surprise and will lend further credence to whispers of factionalism in the team, which came to the fore during India's World T20 campaign in England. 

TOI had reported how Dhoni and Sehwag had a major argument during that event and Dhoni, in a surprising act, had paraded the whole team in a press mett to show that all was well within the brood while refusing to address the media. 

It will be Mishra, however, who will be feeling the pinch the most. Having fought long and hard to catch the eye of the selectors, he became only the sixth Indian to take a five-wicket haul on debut and has been a stead, performer over his 7 Tests. He was forgotten after his ODI debut in 2003 and after years plying his trade for Haryana, a 46-wicket haul from 11 games in the 2007 first-class season, followed by an IPL hat-trick, brought him back into national reckoning. 

The Oz series in 2008 saw him pick 15 wickets and an overall 28 wickets from 7 Tests, at an average of 34.07, would suggest Mishra's legbreaks have come in handy.