Lack of partnerships costs India on best pitch
Click here to listen to MS Dhoni's press conference after the final.
India were faced with the largest target of the tournament on its easiest batting track, and yet their biggest partnership during the chase was worth only 50, between Yuvraj Singh and Virat Kohli for the third wicket. MS Dhoni, the India captain, said the batsmen needed to have had much larger stands if they were to overhaul Sri Lanka's 299 in the final.
The early run-out of Virender Sehwag was a huge blow to India's victory prospects but the rest of the struggling batsmen put up a better performance compared to those in the league phase. There was no one, however, to support Dhoni, who was last man out for 67.
"If you are able to build partnerships, that is the only way you can chase something close to 300," Dhoni said. "Most of the batsmen got the start that was needed, we wanted at least a couple of batsmen to score big. Even if they had scored close to 60-70 odd runs, it would have been a close game if we had converted our starts."
Several batsmen, including Kohli and Suresh Raina, fell while attempting big hits. With the asking-rate climbing past seven mid-way through the chase, Raina, walking in at 109 for 4, tried to push the scoring by lashing a couple of sixes before holing out to cover off Suraj Randiv. "In the Test [at the P Sara Oval, where Raina made a quick 41 to help secure victory] he was said to be courageous and over here he got out for 29," Dhoni said. "I think there's a thin line between being courageous and a rash shot."
Chasing under lights in Dambulla has been tough because of the extra help the bowlers get off the pitch at night, but Dhoni said being asked to bowl during the day hadn't affected the outcome of the match much. "It was the best track given to the players in this series, I felt it played quite neutral under the lights also," he said. "The base of the wicket was really hard and, though there was grass on top of it, it played the same throughout the game."
India chose to play seven batsmen, four quick bowlers and no specialist spinner, a combination which Dhoni defended after the defeat. "We used two spinners for 13 overs [Yuvraj and Sehwag], and their economy-rate was below six, you can't say we missed a bowler since the other four were specialists. It was a flatter wicket, their batsmen batted well."
The one criticism Dhoni had for his bowlers was that they didn't get their lines right at the start of Sri Lanka's innings. "We gave a bit of width initially. Maybe the bowlers were thinking the pitch will behave the same way as wickets were behaving [all tournament, but] they found a wicket where you have to bowl to a different length and bowl to a different line. The Sri Lankan batsmen capitalised on that."
Dhoni said the entire tournament was a learning experience for the team, especially for some of the younger players in the side. "First and foremost [they realised the] importance of partnerships, rather than which individual is scoring runs," he said. "Also that, if conditions are in favour of the bowlers, should always respect them for first 15 overs."
While the pitches in Dambulla may be different from those in next year's World Cup, Dhoni also said the testing times the side went through during the tournament will hold them in good stead. "The World Cup in India will be big, more than just the talent, it will be a test of character - how you can handle the pressure that will be put on the individual."
Siddarth Ravindran is a sub-editor at Cricinfo