Cricket – a team game. A popular African saying quotes that an army of sheep led by a lion can defeat an army of lions led by a sheep. But what if there arises a conflict of the team with the skipper itself. Although the mutinies against skippers were never a common sight. But still the history of cricket teems with ample instances of such rifts. In some cases, the players publically accepted the rumours of rift while some of them denied. In this special feature, we will look up at the 5 biggest Captain vs player rifts in cricket history.
5) The Yorkshiremen at odds – Hutton and Trueman
The condition in the Caribbean land during England’s tour of 1953-54 was extremely volatile. The old colonial British rule was being challenged and people were demanding independence. However, the English team still toured and was led by their first professional captain, Len Hutton, an archetypical Yorkshireman. When the English team touched down, the first instruction to the group by the skipper was not to fraternise with the opponent. Freddie Trueman was far from amused with this. His gregarious soul, who thrived on fraternising, had already made friends with Frank Worrell and few other West Indians while playing the English league cricket. Trueman, was never at a loss for a rejoinder on the ground, strongly objected Hutton’s policy.
Hutton described the Fiery Fred as a problem child. Trueman was docked his good conduct bonus, largely due to the captain’s report. As a result, he missed quite a few tests in his career. His ultimate tally of 307 wickets from 67 Tests still stands as one of the best records of any fast bowler. However, till the end of his life, Trueman carried the grievance that had it not been for Hutton’s unfair treatment, he would have played at least 100 Tests for England and easily topped 400 wickets.
4) Laker put off by May’s comments
Jim Laker is widely remembered for his 19 wickets against the hapless visiting Australians at Old Trafford in 1956. However, he was once involved in a feuds with the then English captain Peter May. Laker’s off-spin seemed as scary as the fastest of deliveries to many a good batsman. With left-arm spinner Tony Lock, he formed one of the most intimidating spinning partnership for England. He along with Lock was instrumental in seven consecutive county championship victories from 1952-58 for the Surrey.
Once, Peter May did accuse him of not really trying during a 1958 county fixture. Needless to say, this infuriated Laker to such an extent that he withdrew his availability for the forthcoming Ashes tour. However, neither of the legends showed any inclination of backing down in this ego clash that hung in the air for an eternity. It was only after some astute diplomatic manoeuvres of the selectors that the impasse was resolved and a compromise was found so that Laker could go to Australia. In a rather patchily-ghosted autobiography of Laker, titled Over to Me, he severely criticised May’s captaincy, the management of the English team during the 1958-59 tour, as also the attitude of both May and the Surrey club authorities towards their county side.
3) The Kohli – Rohit Rivalry
The hottest rift of the Indian cricket makes place at number three in our 5 biggest Captain vs player rifts in cricket history. It all reportedly started with the 2019 World Cup semifinals. When India was struggling against the Kiwi seam attack, Rohit supposedly wasn’t happy with decision making of Virat and Ravi shastri to not send the experienced MS Dhoni at number 4. It is no secret how the match progressed and eventually wrapped up as one of the most embarrassing outing for the Men in Blue.
Also Read: 5 Best Indian Captains of all time
A series of events that followed added fuel to the fire and set the rumour mills chugging again. Firstly, the Hitman went back to India on his own, booking an earlier flight. Although the reasons remain unknown but it is said that Virat-Anushka’s presence was the reason. Rohit then unfollowed Anushka Sharma a few days after, which would have made no sense if every thing was alright between him and Virat. However, both Rohit and Kohli have rubbished the reports of rifts many a time, but somethings always ignites the dead fire.
2) The cutthroat West Indian competition
The unceasing personal landmarks and adulation across Australia. This threatened to create cutthroat competition between two young West Indian batsmen Garfield Sobers and Rohan Kanhai. The West Indies were divided in the evaluation of the two champion batsmen. When cricketer turned journalist Jack Fingleton discussed with some of the Australians on board a ship bound for England, no consensus could be reached. Those who had seen them play in Sydney and Brisbane leaned towards Sobers. While the others from Melbourne and Adelaide vouched for Rohan. Worrell was quick to realise what this rivalry could do to his team. Worrell called for a special team meeting in Tasmania and spoke straight and to the point.
The West Indies team was in Australia to make a reputation for the country, not for any individuals.
A budding rivalry which might have ended in self-destructive bitterness for the West Indian team, was thus nipped in the bud by Sir Frank Worrell. And the two greats ended up with more than 14000 Test runs and 41 centuries between them.
1) The Unproven Tussle between Dhoni and Sehwag
The chart topper of 5 biggest Captain vs player rifts in cricket history is between the two stalwarts of Indian cricket. MS Dhoni and Virender Sehwag. Both of them often found themselves at the opposite ends of a supposed ‘rift’. A rumour that gained momentum due to various reports around the two players between the 2009 and 2012 period. The first instance of what was seemingly a rift between Dhoni and Sehwag was felt at that 2009 T20 World Cup. When news of Sehwag’s aggravated shoulder injury carried an air of mystery around it. When asked about the injury at a pre-match press conference, Dhoni curtly replied. He said, “Maybe you should ask his physio to issue a press release”. Two years later, both the seniors played key roles in India’s triumphant World Cup campaign. This saw voices swirling around the set-up die down.
Also Read: List of All Dhoni records as T20 captain
But the path following the World Cup saw a return of the same speculatio. Albeit due to a utterly different reason. During the 2012 CB series in Australia, Sehwag revealed that the team had decided to rotate its senior openers – Sachin Tendulkar, Gautam Gambhir and Sehwag himself. Things took a turn for the worse when it became known that Dhoni’s mantra to infuse youth in the team via rotation was also to save runs on the field through fresher legs, and the seniors were not communicated about it. “No, we didn’t know that,” Sehwag said in the press conference after their game against Sri Lanka. The two often publicly denied any rift, but that’s what the expected stance would have been either way. The Dhoni-Sehwag saga could be true or blown out of proportion by the media. However, it did cause uncertainty and a whole lot of drama.
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