When skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni came for the media conference after Australia crushed his team in Sydney on Sunday, he didn't know the team was still with a slim chance of making the tri-series final.
Even after he got it clarified from the scribes that India could qualify if they beat Sri Lanka with a bonus point on Tuesday and then Australia defeat the Islanders, his reaction hinted that the team had given up and couldn't wait to get home.
When told that he needn't worry about India's inferior net run rate versus Lanka, Dhoni said: “I'm quite happy to hear that. It gives us another chance.” But then added: “That would be saying I'm very optimistic, seeing that we have not consistently done well with the bat, which means whatever the opposition scores we will have to score in 40 overs, which will be a very difficult task. But I’m happy at least there is a chance.”
Any doubts if the squad was distracted confirmed during the two-hour flight to Hobart, venue of the Tuesday's tie against Lanka. The players and the support staff could be heard making plans for an extended break ahead of the next month's Asia Cup rather than looking to end a disastrous tour with a win.
The flight experienced heavy turbulence and the conversation between two Indian players, who share mother tongue, did little to ease the discomfort. “So, are we going to take a flight back home from Hobart or are we going via Brisbane?” asked one. “I’m not sure, but I'm planning to go to Sydney and spend a night there before returning to India,” came the reply.
At the Sydney airport, coach Duncan Fletcher and bowling coach Eric Simons were huddled in a corner. The rest of the team was scattered, not keen to draw attention.
On the flight, Suresh Raina, facing the axe when the squad is picked for the Asia Cup on Wednesday, sat alone. Virender Sehwag and Dhoni, whose war of words undermined the campaign, got together to poke fun at a scribe over the way the their differences were reported.
Perhaps the players would click when nothing was expected of them, a dejected Dhoni said Sunday. “All of a sudden you get a game where you have nothing to lose, in the sense you can just come in and look to express yourselves.” But that would need a miracle.