Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo
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India captain MS Dhoni accepted the blame for India's exit from the ICC World Twenty20 but called it an overall team failure. "We stand up and say we didn't perform well as a team," a dejected Dhoni said after the defending champions crashed out following a three-run defeat to England.
This was India's second straight loss at Lord's in the Super Eights, the previous one coming against the West Indies. Dhoni sent England in to bat and, though the hosts set a par target of 154, India's batting failed to cope with the pressure and the asking rate. "We stopped them at a decent score. But we don't have a practical excuse. Our performance was not up to the mark," he said.
However the controversial issue at the press conference, which went on for 26 minutes, was the elevation of Ravindra Jadeja. Playing his first game of the tournament, he walked in at No. 4 and finished with 25 off 35 balls. Dhoni explained that Yuvraj Singh, who had scored a brilliant 67 against the West Indies, was the natural choice but he didn't want Yuvraj to keep walking out to a pressure situation - yet that's exactly the situation he faced.
"We expected Jadeja to play a few overs and stabilise the innings and then we could go after their bowling," Dhoni said. "We never really wanted the run-rate to increase to around 9-9.5. He [Jadeja] was still playing his shots but the short balls were bowled really well at him. The run rate climbed from there and the momentum shifted to their side."
By the time Yusuf Pathan walked in to join Dhoni India needed 67 off the last six overs. It was never going to be an easy task especially when the ball was reversing. "By the time Yusuf and I came together it was too late as the ball was reversing and it was difficult for even Yusuf to hit."
Jadeja's inclusion for this match was a surprise as it came at the expense of Pragyan Ojha, the left-arm spinner who had been impressive through the tournament. Dhoni said the aim was to strength the batting without having to lose a fast-bowling option with RP Singh also replacing Irfan Pathan.
"We were looking at the combination and at the same time we were looking to chase. In the 2007 World Twenty20 we batted deep down, so we wanted depth in batting," Dhoni said. "He [Jadeja] is an excellent fielder, he can bat well and bowling-wise he did the job. It also allowed us to pick another fast bowler so it actually increased the overall strength of the side." The result, though, suggested otherwise.
Not for the first time, Dhoni added that fielding was another key area where there was room for improvement after showing problems through the tournament. "Fielding is an area we need to work on. This was the best side with our best fielders. We can't complain but we can definitely improve."
The final game with South Africa is now a dead rubber, but Dhoni tried to play down the importance of India going out early and already had one eye on next year's World Twenty20 in West Indies. "This loss is disappointing but the loss in the 2007 ODI World Cup was the worst loss of my career," he said.
"Cricket never tests your character when you are doing well, it always test you when you are not doing well both as an individual and as a team. It is a testing time for us. It is not the end of the road for us - we are going to the West Indies shortly and we can repair the damage."