Indian captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni on Tuesday added more fuel to the intense speculation about his strained relationship with V.V.S. Laxman, saying he was not invited for a late night party thrown by the retired cricketer at his residence.
Laxman, who retired from the game in controversial fashion just ahead of the series against New Zealand even though he was selected for the two Tests, threw a party on Tuesday night for senior members Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir and Zaheer Khan at his residence in Manikonda in the city’s suburbs. He, however, chose to ignore Dhoni for the bash.
When Dhoni was asked at the pre-match press conference if he was invited by Laxman, he replied in a clear "No.”
The skipper also chose to pay little attention to the fact that Laxman could not get through to him to inform him about his immediate retirement plans ahead of the series.
"You think it's a controversy but people who know me always complained that I'm someone who is quite difficult to get hold of. That was one of the reasons why Laxmanbhai could not get hold of me," Dhoni told reporters ahead of the first cricket Test against New Zealand starting here Thursday.
"That's not something new. I have tried to improve but it seems I have not really improved," he said.
Asked about Laxman's sudden retirement, pat came Dhoni's reply: "You need to ask Laxman about it."
Laxman, who trained hard at the NCA for about four months and also played in two local matches keeping in mind the fresh season ahead, suddenly announced his retirement last week, fuelling speculation that all was not well in the Indian camp.
According to unconfirmed reports, Laxman was handed a two-match ultimatum by one of the selectors.
The elegant middle-order batsman, known for his second innings heroics including an epic 281 against Australia in Kolkata, was unhappy about the ultimatum. Laxman's retirement came after Dravid bid adieu to the game in March in the aftermath of India's 0-8 rout in England and Australia.
Dhoni said the team would miss the duo but felt that their absence would provide opportunity to youngsters to prove their mettle.
"Definitely these are our two great players and we will miss them on the field. But that's how it is," he said on the eve of series opener.
"It's an opportunity for the youngsters to take up the responsibility in the longer format. We are hoping that the youngsters would grab the opportunity and do well," he added.
The duo's absence would mean that India would have to fill in the void at the slip cordon, of which Laxman and Dravid were integral part. But Dhoni hoped that Virender Sehwag, Suresh Raina and Virat Kohli would take up the responsibility.
"We are hoping that we won't miss them in the slip cordon. When it comes to scoring runs and the experience they had, it would be quite difficult. That's one area where we will definitely miss them," the skipper said.
"But we don't think we will be short of fielders. We have players like Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Virender Sehwag who are already fielding at the slips. We have seen the youngsters catch the ball really well. Sehwag most likely will stand at first slip. With the spinners, there might be a bit of issue. It's challenging when there's bounce. We will miss Rahul over there. But let's look ahead and hope one of the youngsters take this opportunity and take a few good catches there," he added.