The morning after, and the questions remain.
India's unceremonious exit from the World T20 has, predictably, put Mahendra Singh Dhoni's captaincy, and his team, under the scanner. The champions were just not good enough when pitted against the big guns, losing three of their four matches — including the two warm-ups — against the bigger teams. If the loss against the West Indies was the death knell for the champions, the three-run capitulation against England ended India's reign at the top of the T20 world. So, where did it all go so terribly wrong for India?
In every inquest, there is a certain someone who shoulders most, if not all, of the blame. It will be no different this time. Ravindra Jadeja, all of three games old, seems to be the obvious target this time around. The youngster's failure to launch after being promoted at No 4 had his skipper answering many a question about his temperament and even ability at the this level. It would, however, be unfair to blame the young man for the loss. The thinking behind the move, as Dhoni explained, was Jadeja's ability to stabilise the innings and create a launchpad for Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan. It didn't work. Jadeja was peppered with the short ball and found it increasingly hard to get off the strike.
Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and the decision to hold back Yuvraj wasn't the cleverest move Dhoni will ever make. Yuvraj has been the lone bright spot in the Indian middle order, always one to enjoy a challenge and reserve his best for the big games, he could have done with more time in the middle than he eventually got.
Ishant Sharma is a rare talent. Arguably one of the better things to happen to Indian fast bowling for a while now, Ishant has found his feet in international cricket really fast and become a mainstay of the Indian team. But over the past few months, T20 cricket has been the staple diet of most cricketers around. First, it was the incessant slam-bang of the Indian Premier League, which was almost immediately followed by the World Cup. For Ishant, both outings have been forgettable, to say the least. He was part of the disaster that was the Kolkata Knight Riders in South Africa and, despite the promising start against Pakistan in the warm-up, has been off-colour in England.
Ishant has never been the quintessential T20 bowler. More in the mould of a Test bowler, the lanky Delhi boy has earned his stripes as a Test bowler. Ishant's return from the eight T20 internationals he has played has been a woeful four wickets at 55.25. Hardly the kind of stats that would have prompted Dhoni to bowl him out against England and not bowl the in-form, and a proven success in T20s, RP Singh.
If Ishant was a part of the bottom team in the IPL, RP was the leading light for the champions, Deccan Chargers. The leading wicket-taker in the tournament, RP earned his way back in to this team on the back of his IPL success. Though he didn't start as well as he would have liked in the warm-ups, India's continuous problems with the death bowling should have surely prompted a rethink on RP's starting berth.
All said and done, India were beaten by opponents who outthought, outplayed and overwhelmed them. Possibly, a first in Dhoni's time at the top.