This defeat, like the one in the T-20 World Cup, has once again rattled those who had started believing in the invincibility of Team India. So, what has gone wrong?
On the surface, the explanations for these losses are not hard to find. Injuries to key players, shoddy fielding and complete breakdown of its bowling strength led to this embarrassing exit.
Those who had thought that the young players will benefit from the IPL experience have been proved wrong, as the bench strength too has let India down.
The irony is that India’s woes began immediately after the end of the IPL jamboree in South Africa. It was believed then that the Indian players will now go to England and just about decimate every team in the World Cup to become champions. In reality, the reverse happened. The gruelling schedule first incapacitated two of India’s key players --- Sehwag and Zaheer --- and on the field the rest looked jaded, tired and lacking in motivation.
And then came respite in the shape of a proper one-month rest, before India embarked on another round of non-stop cricket. The first stop was Sri Lanka and India’s winning there meant that the team was back on track.
But somehow, watching them perform on the field did not give one the impression that “rest” had done them any good. Their fielding, if anything had deteriorated and the bowlers lacked steam and rhythm. Even in conditions where batting first literally ensures victory, especially when you have put up a big score, India’s win despite the margin being healthy, was not very convincing. The Lankan batsmen did enough to expose India’s weaknesses. Just take away Sachin Tendulkar from the equation and you would understand what I mean.
In South Africa too, the picture presented on the television screen did not appear any different.
The same lethargy on the field, the same tired, listless faces presented the image of a team which was somehow not there. The Ishants and RPs of the team looked out of place and surprisingly Harbhajan Singh too gave the impression that he was out of practice.
The brash, on your face, new young India had relied on the aging legs of Tendulkar to help them win in Lanka.
Here he failed and so did India.
This leads us back to the question, what has gone wrong? I am not talking about winning or losing here but why the joy of playing, the infectious enthusiasm of the young and not so young, is not visible any more on their faces?
It is possible that because of the defeat one could be misinterpreting these fleeting impressions formed from the visuals presented on the TV screen.
I, like most, am searching for answers. The question needs to be raised why, post IPL-II, has the team looked a pale shadow of its vibrant former self? And, more importantly, why even after taking a “break” of a month, does the team look out of its depth?
The answer to these questions could help India find its feet again and play once more like a champion side.