Lasith Malinga and Muttiah Muralitharan came in to the World Cup final with 27 wickets between them in the tournament. They were expected to lead Sri Lanka's attack on Saturday, but Murali went wicketless and Malinga couldn't build on his first spell of 2 for 11 in four overs.
Malinga got the early wickets of Virender Sehwag and Sachin Tendulkar, but failed to give Sri Lanka a breakthrough in the middle overs, as he so often does with the old ball. When he came on in the end, with India closing in on a win, he bowled one over for three runs, but his next went for 11, relieving the pressure on India's batsmen. Malinga suggested the dew may have affected his bowling later on in the innings.
"I couldn't bowl yorkers properly because the ball was too wet," Malinga said on his return to Colombo on Sunday. "It was difficult to swing the ball. I tried hard. I regret I couldn't take more wickets." This was not the first time in the World Cup that a player had said he was hampered by dew. After England's loss to Bangladesh in Chittagong, Graeme Swann had likened bowling with a wet ball to playing football with your hands tied behind your back.
On that occasion, England had been put in to bat by Bangladesh, but on Saturday, it was Sri Lanka's decision to bat first. They had bowled second during their group match against New Zealand in Mumbai, and on that occasion dismissed the opposition for 153. Malinga had been expensive in that match, going for more than seven runs an over, but had not been required to bowl more than five overs, as Sri Lanka's spinners ran through New Zealand. Murali, who took four wickets in that game, had said that it was tough to turn the wet ball but one had to learn how to adjust and think of other ways to dismiss batsmen.
During the final, Murali didn't look 100% fit - though his captain later insisted "he was fine" - and rarely troubled India's batsmen in his eight overs which went for 39. He said the 274 Sri Lanka had posted was enough to defend but the spinners not capitalising on Malinga's start was the main reason for the loss.
"We got enough runs on the board; 274 was a good score. Malinga took two vital wickets but after that we couldn't crack their side, especially in the middle part," Murali said. "The spinners didn't take enough wickets.
"If I or Suraj [Randiv] took a few wickets then the story would have been different. These things happen in cricket so you have to move on and I'd like to wish the team well for the future. Hopefully, in 2015 they'll bring home the cup."
Randiv, who had only joined the squad after an injury to Angelo Mathews and found himself playing in the tournament for the first time in the final, went wicketless in nine overs, while Tillakaratne Dilshan picked up one wicket with his part-time offspin.
The loss meant Murali's one-day career did not have the dream finish that his Test career did - he took eight wickets, including his 800th in a victorious last Test - and he admitted he was disappointed. "It was a little bit disappointing because my main aim was to win the World Cup. But unfortunately we couldn't do that because India were a better side on the day."
While Murali had announced before the tournament started that this would be his last international series, Malinga has now said he will not play another World Cup. He has been injury prone, with a recurring knee injury being a source of constant concern, and said he will not last till 2015, by when he will be 31.
"I hope to be of service to my team as long as I can, but I won't be able to play in the next World Cup in 2015," Malinga said. "I have been carrying injuries for the past few weeks with little rest." He was rested from Sri Lanka's first two group games but has since played seven matches in just over a month.
Malinga has been part of two losing teams in World Cup finals, in a stop-start career that comprised only 30 Tests and 84 one-dayers since debuting in 2004.
While they couldn't do enough in the final, Murali and Malinga both had their moments in the tournament. Malinga grabbed a second World Cup hat-trick in Sri Lanka's group-stage match against Kenya, and then took three wickets in the semi-final against New Zealand. Murali bagged three wickets in his last game in his hometown of Kandy, got four in the group match against New Zealand and then struck with his last ball in Sri Lanka, in the semi-final.
When he announced his retirement, Murali had said he would continue playing domestic Twenty20 tournaments, and he will turn out for Kochi Tuskers Kerala in the IPL, which starts on April 8. After that he plans to play for Wellington for a couple of seasons on New Zealand's domestic circuit, most likely in the HRV Cup. He said he would go to Wellington because he had promised former Chennai Super Kings team-mate Stephen Fleming he would.
"Stephen has a bit to do with Wellington, so I have promised him I would come to play for two years to help them," Muralitharan said. "It's up to Stephen to put through a deal for me. I've always enjoyed playing there. You have nice, friendly people and a competitive [international] cricket team given that they made the [World Cup] semi-finals again."
Murali will also spend time working on his plan to build a sports complex for war-displaced civilians. "Cricket unites communities," he said. "We can use the game to reach out and help those who are less privileged than us, to make their lives a little bit easier."