Defending champions India lost to England last night in a thrilling match that went right down to the last over. Considering that South Africa have already qualified for the semifinals, this defeat also has eliminated India from the ICC Twenty20 World Cup. Their last match against South Africa will now be just a formality.
After a rather surprising defeat to West Indies, all eyes were on India, expecting them to bounce back strong and in fact dent England's hopes instead.
The stage was set for a do-or-die match for both sides, and Lord's was the perfect venue for a match of such epic proportions.
Looking at the huge support for India at the venue, it was easy to mistake Lord's for the FerozShah Kotla or Wankhede stadium, but we were indeed still in England.
Accompanied with a huge burden of expectations, ruthless criticism from the Indian media, hopes and prayers of one billion people, not to mention personal ambitions and an uncorrupted thirst for success, the Indian team took the field.
Indian captain MS Dhoni put England in to bat first. And they got off to a bad start. RP Singh got rid of Wright early.
But a big stage warrants a gallant warrior. And for England it was Kevin Pietersen. His presence seemed to take the game away from India, as he scored runs with ease and flare.
His battle with Indian spinner Harbhajan Singh was worth watching. At one point, Pietersen, known for his "reverse-shot", was all but ready to smash one out of the park, but Singh slyly pulled away from bowling.
Smiles all around at the sneaky contest, but Pietersen had the last laugh.
He was well assisted at the other end by Ravi Bopara, and later it was Dimitri Mascarenhas who took England to a total of 153/8, after a mini collapse at the end.
In reply, India had a terrible start as well, as IPL superstar Rohit Sharma got out cheaply. English seamer Ryan Sidebottom bowled extremely well and was assisted by some shaky batting at the top by Indian batsmen, as pressure started to take its toll.
In what will be perhaps the most debated and criticized decision, and in hindsight certainly looks like a huge mistake, Ravindra Jadeja was sent in ahead of Yusuf Pathan and Dhoni. He looked completely out of sorts and wasted a lot of deliveries.
The run-rate started to climb and something had to give.
Yuvraj Singh came in and smashed two sixes in quick succession to give Indian fans some hope, but the glory was short-lived, as Graeme Swann craftily got him out stumped and it changed the whole complexion of the game.
Finally, Yusuf Pathan got to the crease. And with captain Dhoni at the other end, nothing seemed impossible.
But Dhoni was not himself either, managing to scrape boundaries off edges only. Yusuf tried hard to hit a few big hits, but the run-rate by then had gotten out of control.
When the last over came, India needed 19 runs. Though Dhoni smashed a four off the last ball, India could only manage 150 runs, and thus lost by three runs in the end.
In a press conference Dhoni apologized to Indian fans and expressed his disappointment.
Now that the firm favorites are out of the competition in such a fashion, many questions will be raised, and the best one will be, "Who is to blame?"
Captain MS Dhoni will surely be one of the first to be crucified by the media. Many of his decisions made little or no sense.
Why was Jadeja sent in ahead of Yusuf?
Was it right to persist with an out of form Ishant Sharma?
He promoted himself to the number three slot instead of Raina in the first few matches, and only in the crucial game put Raina to face the music. Was it right?
Is Dhoni's personal form good enough to continue with the side as a captain or a player?
Of course, the rest of the team cannot escape criticism either.
Terrible shot selection by the top and middle order, Jadeja's inability to score quickly, failure of all bowling plans for Pieterson and Bopara to name a few.
Or was the IPL to blame? Some say, too much cricket tired out Indian players and they were not passionate enough about the World Cup as they were about the money-laden IPL.
Shouldn't the media take the blame? Just before the start of the tournament, the Indian media ruthlessly criticized Dhoni on the matter of Sehwag and raised questions about team unity. True or not, was it the right time to ask those questions?
Was the glorified Indian team overconfident?
Was the team selection right? Was the management/coaching/team strategy right?
It will take some time for the Indian fans to really accept this defeat. And some more time to answer all these questions.
But one thing is sure. The blame game has begun.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!