Dhoni credits Sri Lanka's bowlers
India came into the match knowing their bowlers were the weak link, and they performed accordingly. Where they will feel let down, though, is with the star-studded batting. In all, the top seven lasted fewer than 135 overs in both innings put together. There were some irresponsible shots and some fantastic bowling from the opposition. The pitch remained good for batting throughout, even until the last evening when Muttiah Muralitharan had to struggle for 25 overs for his 800th wicket.
MS Dhoni, though, chose to concentrate on the opposition's bowling effort. "Whenever we had some kind of a partnership going, the Sri Lankan bowlers came up with a beautiful delivery to get the batsmen out," Dhoni said. "Be it the first innings or the second. We had quite a few partnerships in the first innings, also in the second, but some of the deliveries they bowled were really difficult to keep out."
Dhoni reserved special praise for Lasith Malinga. "If you see Malinga, you can't really say he changes his action to let the ball come in or take it out," he said. "He bowls in the same areas with the new ball and at times it comes in, at times it goes away. It can be a bit difficult for the opening batsmen, especially when he is bowling the first couple of overs, which he will do more often than not. It was one of those games where the ball fell at the right place."
Steering clear of the shots played by Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman in the first innings, Dhoni spoke about the deliveries that broke a promising partnership between him and Yuvraj Singh. That's when, he said, India were sent towards defeat. "We had a kind of partnership then, me and Yuvraj Singh in the first innings," Dhoni said. "We were in a position to avoid the follow-on. After that we would have been in a good position to save the Test match. Murali bowled two really good deliveries and got both of us out. After that, with the follow-on enforced, it was important we kept going. But whenever we got a partnership going, Malinga produced a couple of wickets."
Dhoni wasn't harsh on his bowling unit. "The wicket was quite flat," he said. "As a bowling unit, you have to keep putting the pressure on and force the batsman to commit a mistake. Or you come up with brilliant deliveries. Murali and Malinga shared 15 wickets. Murali is a great bowler, and Malinga, because of his action, gets really difficult to play. Apart from that, if you are a bowler with a normal action, if you don't have much variety in your bowling, it gets really difficult to get the batsmen out once they are set."
Dhoni said his bowlers could have done with some more luck. "We were to some extent unlucky because quite a few edges didn't carry to slip or didn't go to slip fielders," he said. "If you see the boundary percentage, there were quite a few scored between the keeper and the point fielder. It is important to have luck on your side, which never was in this game."
India also missed three half chances and looked flat in the field to go with the average bowling. Sri Lanka took every chance that came their way, including Angelo Mathews' run-out of VVS Laxman, when the batsman had started to threaten a draw. Mahela Jayawardene was special as usual in the slips, taking four catches off Murali and a special one off Chanaka Welegedara to remove Sehwag in the second innings. India couldn't be accused of any such effort. Outplayed in every department of play, India's margin of defeat told an accurate story.
Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo