Sri Lanka v India, Group F, World Twenty20 2010, St Lucia May 11, 2010

India's island dreams shatter again


India have had another Caribbean nightmare. Three years ago they were the kings of Twenty20 but now have some serious thinking to do about the shortest format. For the second tournament in succession they have been dumped without a win in the Super Eights and defeat never goes down well back home. And this from a side in which every member played at the IPL. Ideal preparation? Obviously not.

This exit may not create the seismic activity that followed the early flight home in the 2007 World Cup, but it is bound to produce plenty of harsh assessment. The inquisitions had started even before this match, with India only having an outside chance of progressing. That faint hope disappeared once Sri Lanka reached 144 in their run-chase and a demoralised side then gave up the match off the last ball. Four sixes in the final eight deliveries carried Sri Lanka to an impressive success and their all-round performance was the complete opposite of what India have been able to produce.

MS Dhoni managed a few smiles in his press conference as he was grilled in expected fashion. Partly that was due to an interruption from the PA announcer about an illegally parked car, but also when he was asked about how this would go down in India. He knows what it will be like. He's been here before and it won't be pleasant.

"As captain you are always under pressure," he said. "I think it's the responsibility of the captain to explain why the team didn't do well because he's the face of the team. He gets the credit when he goes well and he also gets the criticism. It shouldn't reach into your private life but we are leading a country where cricket is a big sport and each time we go out we are expected to win."

But it was the downbeat nature of his assessment of what the team could have done about the situation which was most clear and surprising. "At the end of the day we are on the losing side, nothing much can be done about it because this is the best 15 [players] you can get in India when it comes to T20. At the end of the day if you are outplayed there is nothing much you can do about it."

In hindsight the signs weren't good to start with. They were the last side to arrive and didn't opt for a practice match before their opening game. Dhoni suggested it was the last thing his team needed after a 90-minute coach ride from the international airport in St Lucia to the north of the island. They have also chosen days off rather than practice during the event but Dhoni said "one more practice session wouldn't have made a difference".

They were lucky with the schedule in the group stage as their opening game was against Afghanistan who, for all the romanticism it possibility entailed, were never seriously going to challenge India. That gave them breathing space and the victory against South Africa, led by Suresh Raina's 101, was a slick display which boded well. In reality they peaked too soon.

They couldn't handle the pace and bounce of the Barbados pitch and Dhoni has admitted some of the batsmen aren't up to the challenge due to the nature of conditions they are brought up on. There aren't many bouncy tracks at the IPL. When they were back in St Lucia they were right at home on the front foot and Raina was back in the runs. Nothing was bouncing above knee height. Dhoni admitted that India's inability to cope with the bouncer was systemic.

"Most of us have the problem of playing short-pitched balls. So it is not just the youngsters who had problems. We can't neglect it any more. But we don't have bowlers who consistently at 145-50 kph and most of wickets in India don't have that kind of bounce," he said.

"But we should also remember we are good players of spin. So we shouldn't be ashamed that we can't play short-pitched bowling. We have to play even against short balls but we can't be ducking and leaving all the time in Twenty20," Dhoni said.

Win or lose, the role of the IPL was bound to be at the forefront of India's performance. Dhoni has said it's unfair to compare the two, but if anything this World Twenty20 has just gone to reinforce that the quality is actually spread pretty thinly in that tournament. It's a domestic event, albeit a big and brash one. Dhoni also made a subtle suggestion that players needed to take responsibility for themselves.

"I've had no setbacks because of the IPL but at the same time players need to be smart because IPL is not only about cricket," he said. "You have to respect your body and if you don't do that then IPL is draining. If you play late games and go to the parties and travel the next day it takes a toll. But if you take care of yourself 45 days of cricket shouldn't affect you because we play 200 or more in a year."

It's a question of priorities for this India team and maybe international Twenty20 is now down the list. Now that they are top of the tree in Test cricket the BCCI is trying to arrange Test series left, right and centre so they can retain the mantle. South Africa's tour earlier this year was adjusted to include two Tests and Australia are now being asked for the same when they visit in October. If the BCCI really do want to help the future of Test cricket then it's a great move, but it is clearly more than coincidence.

India next's assignment is a triangular series in Zimbabwe alongside the hosts and Sri Lanka with what, in effect, is a shadow side. Senior players, including Dhoni, are being rested, which suggests he is more tired than he has admitted.

However, for Dhoni there is a huge challenge on the horizon over the next nine months - preparing his team for a World Cup on home soil. Failure here will be hard to stomach for the billions of fans, but failure next year won't be tolerated.

Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • dummy4fb on May 16, 2010, 18:52 GMT

    i accept what sundar1967 says, indian players get a lot of money playing in ipl so they don't wanna give much stress to t20 cup.

  • sundar1967 on May 15, 2010, 6:14 GMT

    I put the blame squarely on IPL. Because in matter of 45 to 50 days players are getting more money in IPL. I think indians by playing IPL alone and make money. The pride of playing for the nation is lost. for the sake of nation ban IPL.

  • Kachada1 on May 14, 2010, 16:42 GMT

    "Former cricketers lash out" ... one comment to the former cricketers that are lashing out ... except for Kapil, and, his men of '83, the rest of you have not won much either. You TOO had your short comings against the short ball. So give your mouths a rest. To cure this, prepare pitches that have more bounce than the one at Perth, have the pitch at a 5 to 10 degree angle with the batsman at the lower end of the pitch and make this practise pitch 20 yards. These conditions will improve the reflexes. ... And one more comment to the Indian commentators. Stope using the phrase, "Step up to the plate". It is a baseball analogy and by using it you are just exhibiting your ignorance.

  • PTtheAxis on May 14, 2010, 13:27 GMT

    @jacksparrows: yes ponting did a mistake with lee & thats why ponting is not a 20/20 captain anymore. but dhoni did it with jadeja in 2 matches, one after the other. also he brought himself on instead of letting inform rohit have a hit after 91/1 in 10 agiaisnt SL. dhoni has back problems, is overweight, misses catches, stumpings, gives byes, clogs up balls in 20/20, takes selfish decisions in batting order, keeps his friends in the team , relies on luck in captaincy. he is not even fit enough to be in the team. a new captain and a team of youngsters without full bank accounts is required.

  • Rydham on May 14, 2010, 10:41 GMT

    Enough has been written on the debacle of India. When will we see the same kind of articals on South Africa and West Indies ? Why people easily forgets that these two teams were there and also got eliminated as badly as India.

  • dummy4fb on May 14, 2010, 9:14 GMT

    india have good fielding side, strong batting lineup, enough spin bowling attack but they lack some good front line fast bowlers.

    IPL have given nothing much special to indian think about the IPL and how it affects the players..hope indian wud comeup with a solution.

    wish you best of luck for upcoming tournment..wish india will do best.

  • JackSparrows on May 14, 2010, 8:33 GMT

    @PTtheaxis: People only learn from their mistakes, so did Australia and so will India. As Australia found the right composition I am very sure India will too. re Jadeja been given one more over then I will remind of the final over of 1st T20 final where he kept is faith in Joginder Singh, who is a below par bowler but still Dhoni kept faith in him and that did the trick, if you reflect back to last year's T20 what happened to Brett Lee why did Ponting brought him back for another over when he was already peppered by Gayle, one or two incidents doesnt mean anything. I have confidence in Dhoni and Indian players they will bounce back, lets wait for October when OZ visits India then we'll talk...

  • Nampally on May 13, 2010, 21:09 GMT

    India's performance was doleful led by lack lustre captaincy of Dhoni. His team selection & batting order as well as the bowling changes lacked reasoning. His favouring of Jadeja on a fast pitch over Vinay Kumar defied any sensible fan. If Pathan is taken for hitting he should be up in the order or make way for regular batsmen. In the death overs India scored badly thru' the knockout series. Their bowling in last 5 overs was attrocious. They could have won both against WI & SL if only they pressed the early advantage and taken crucial catches such as that of Gayle - askier straight in the hands.Jadjea & Raina between them gave 50 runs in 4 overs against WI. Nehra bowled badly against SL in the death overs. On a slow pitch India failed to get 200 needed to beat SL scoring 37 in last 5 overs with Rain & Dhoni at the crease. If they cannot hit for the fence give way to Pathan - taken for fence hitting. Selectors need to send a team with positive winning attitude not a losing one

  • dummy4fb on May 13, 2010, 21:06 GMT

    I knew India not going to win World T20 in West Indies because India in not good enough at foreign soil. At home soil India play good cricket and players think that there is no other team like India or players like them. They feel very proud of them selves. After playing IPL Indian cricketer, selectors and Indian fan though that India going to win World T20 very easily but what happened..........? Same happened in 2009 after playing IPL India did not win World T20. Many Indians believe IPL is best in world but I personally believe IPL is best in making money, not for cricket. In IPL cricketers play so many matches which make tired.IPL not helping India to win any major tournament because in IPL you play against most Indians less foreigners cricketers and in ICC tournament all foreigners. I remember when Mbangwa asked Gavasker, who is favorite to win World T20 2010? He replied, India.I was shocked probably he has no idea of the quality and strength of Australian team

  • siddhant_gupta on May 13, 2010, 19:37 GMT

    I think all the factors that u people are listing for india's poor performance are true but havn't india performed inspite of all this in the past??I think one major factor to lay a finger on is the absence of Sehwag and poor attitude and form of Yuvraj.. When these guyz perform all the points like bouncy pitches, fatigue,team selection etc. are self taken care of!!!

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