For nearly 35 overs, India had a vice-like grip on this match, but Rahul Dravid holed out to Riyad Emrit on the long-on rope, they went into freefall, 232 for 3 to 268 all out. "That was where we lost the game," said a visibly disappointed Dravid afterwards. "To lose 7 for 36 on a flat wicket was not acceptable. We needed to do better in those end overs."
India had rested the likes of Sourav Ganguly, Zaheer Khan and Harbhajan Singh for this game, but Dravid was anxious to emphasise that the reverse had nothing to do with the 11 names on the team-sheet. "It's not about the personnel, it's about execution of the key moments in a match," he said. "I think 340 or 350 would have been a good score.
"The one new guy we tried out was Robin [Uthappa], and Suresh [Raina] also came up the order. Robin set the tone beautifully, but one of us needed to carry on and get a big score. I'll be the first to put my hand up and say that I should have stayed to the end. In hindsight, we could have waited a little longer before trying to force the pace. We didn't get one significant contribution."
Once the batting imploded to give West Indies the initiative, the bowlers needed to be close to their peak to force the issue. That didn't happen, despite Chris Gayle going to the first ball of the innings. Sreesanth offered up a wretched opening spell, and there were 25 wides in a generally indisciplined performance.
"Control of the shiny new white ball is something we're working on, and something we've spoken about," said Dravid. "We tend to give away too many runs in the first 10 or 12 overs. Maybe the bowlers felt today that we hadn't given them enough runs to play with, and that they needed early wickets. Having said that, Ajit [Agarkar] bowled superbly."
At 92 for 3, India might have sensed an opening, but it was all darkness thereafter as Samuels and Lara totted up 127 at a run a ball. "We were never really in the game once they got going," rued Dravid, before focussing on the few positives to emerge from the defeat.
The obvious one was Uthappa, who batted with the fluency of the Sehwag of old while careening his way to 70 from just 41 balls. Soon after he signed him for Liverpool, Bill Shankly used to send Kevin Keegan out to play with the exhortation: "Go and drop some hand-grenades out there, son." Though it's not known what Dravid or Chappell said, Uthappa certainly made an explosive impact. There were 11 fours and two sixes, the great majority straight off the bat's sweet spot, and the stands started bellowing out his name as the ball flashed past the ropes.
With seats on the flight to the Caribbean at a premium, at least one from Uthappa, Raina and Gautam Gambhir will miss out. The trio are pencilled in at the top of the order for this game and there was no doubt which man emerged today one step nearer a Caricom visa. Gambhir fluffed his lines, and may have to make way when Ganguly returns, while Raina yet again highlighted an exasperating inability to go beyond pretty 20s and 30s.
Uthappa has had a stellar season for Karnataka, scoring over 800 runs, and though Dravid had hardly had the opportunity to play alongside him, he was full of appreciation for the superb cameo. "He got us off to a flying start, set the tone and tempo for the innings," he said. "These young guys have courage and confidence and a lot of belief. He'll realise with experience though that when you get a start like that, you need to go on. That's what he'll learn with time. But for a guy playing just his fourth game, to play like that was pretty special."
It was a view echoed by Brian Lara, who admitted that the opening flurry had let him more than a little worried. "I've seen him bat in the Challenger, and once in the Caribbean," said Lara, when asked to assess what he had seen. "It was unexpected, and all the shots he played were excellent ones. He looked very compact and at times, he made the bowling look very easy. At one point, I thought we'd be chasing 400."
Unfortunately for India, a youthful rush of blood stopped Uthappa short, and further indiscretions from Dravid and Tendulkar meant that a blazing start was followed by a pathetic whimper of a finish.