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Living on a prayer, India reach the end of the road

Their hopes hinged on the last league game, India sat helplessly as Sri Lanka booked a finals berth. Amol Karhadkar reports.
Hindustan Times | By Amol Karhadkar, Brisbane
UPDATED ON MAR 02, 2012 11:51 PM IST

India wasn't playing a match on Friday. Still, one can assume that not just the national selectors but also the state selectors of many BCCI affiliated units would be glued to the television as the last league match of the CB Series headed for a close finish.

No wonder, minutes after Sri Lanka pulled off their third successive win against the hosts, which ensured India's ouster from the tournament, Rohit Sharma was included in Mumbai's squad for next week's domestic one-day championship knockouts.

While those back home hoped and prayed for an Aussie victory, which would have ensured India's entry into the three-match tri-series finals, the team wasn't unduly perturbed and went about its chores in a normal manner. While most of the players watched the first half of the match together in the team hotel, they ventured out for dinner later on.

Umesh Yadav, Praveen Kumar and Rahul Sharma were seen heading for the food court next to the hotel, while Sachin Tendulkar and trainer Ramji Srinivasan went out with a friend.

Perhaps, Lasith Malinga's early blows convinced the Indians that this was the last day of their tour. Soon after, they lost interest in the match and started packing their bags.

Nearly an hour after Sri Lanka deservingly sealed a spot in the finals, the fans too appeared to have turned their back on the team, as there were no acquaintances or cricket buffs in the lobby to catch a glimpse of their stars.

As for the players, most of them were concerned about paying extra for the excess baggage at the airport.

But that's not all; they would be returning home with heavy hearts too, which though won't be 'taxed'.

Almost three months ago, when Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman, Yadav, Pragyan Ojha and Wriddhiman Saha had arrived early to prepare for the Test series, while the rest played the last few ODI matches against the West Indies at home, there was a feeling that India was extremely serious about their tour Down Under.

But, midway through the tour, after being annihilated by Australia in the Test series, the focus shifted to the tri-series. The world champions were hoping to retain their CB Series crown in style.

As the players called off the night early on Friday to be able to leave for the airport at 6am, they would probably be wondering whether they had any sizeable gains, apart from Virat Kohli, on the tour.

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