South African batsman Jean-Paul Duminy, plays a shot as Mahendra Singh Dhoni watches during the ICC Twenty20 Cricket World Cup Super Eight match between India and South Africa in Colombo, Sri Lanka. AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena
Champion teams have a special look and feel about them. It can be sensed in their attitude and approach to the game. We saw the India team register four wins out of five games in the World Twenty20, but the swagger of world-beaters was clearly missing.
No one was really surprised when another tournament ended in disappointment in coach Duncan Fletcher and skipper MS Dhoni's reign as the team crashed out of the event on Tuesday.
The Men in Blue had everything laid on a platter for them in this tournament. They were based at one place, which meant no travelling and the advantage of knowing the conditions better; they played all their matches at 7.30 am, the best time of the day. Most importantly, on the final day they played last, which gave them the advantage of knowing the exact equation. The last yard | Standings
But, to the disappointment of their supporters, Dhoni's men couldn't make it count and bowed out meekly. The only consolation is that they scored two wins in the Super Eight stage after drawing blanks in the 2009 and 2010 events; one of them being against Pakistan on Sunday.
A Low total?
India finished on 152 for six, but in effect, they were defending 121, as they needed to win by 31 runs to pip Pakistan for the semifinal spot. They just didn't have the ammo for the job and the South Africans reached 151 to pull India down with them.
The pressure was on Dhoni & Co when Pakistan beat Australia by 32 runs in the first game of the day. Put in to bat, the onus was on the India batsmen to set up the game. But the big names failed to deliver.
The team was on the back-foot when Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag's expected opening assault against Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel never came. The signs were ominous when Virat Kohli got out tamely. Yuvraj Singh flattered to deceive, making a mess of a full-length delivery from Morkel.
Despite getting enough time to find his feet, Rohit Sharma failed to force the pace, his 25 off 27 balls being too slow. Suresh Raina waged a lone battle with a 34-ball unbeaten 45 and skipper Dhoni blasted a 13-ball unbeaten 23 to take India to a fighting total. The team's need would have been better served had Dhoni come up the order. The skipper has always spoken about horses for courses, but the bowling combination didn't reflect that.
On the same wicket, Pakistan successfully choked Australia's imposing batting line-up with spinners. Mohd Hafeez didn't bring on his pacer until the 18th over, but India stuck to a three-pacers, one-spinners combination. India's best chance would have been getting Harbhajan to bowl in tandem with R Ashwin at the spin-sensitive Proteas.
For a team that had already been knocked out, South Africa played with a lot of resolve. They were charged up on the field, and were not afraid of taking on the Indian bowlers on the sluggish wicket. The nightmare was complete during the 17th over when Robin Peterson gloved Balaji for a single off the fifth ball. With the roar of the Pakistani supporters, one could see the colour drain out of the Indian boys’ faces.
What do you think has been the weak-link in Team India's performance at World T20?