Now even the slender thread by which India's chances rested in this World Cup is gone, and it is time for some serious introspection. The hype that surrounded the event suggested that India has a god-given grant to return with the World Cup but as we all learnt bitterly, the truth was far from it.
Effigies will be burnt, houses will be stoned and players will need an extra cover of security when they land, but this entire thing is not new to Indian cricket or the cricketers. The truth to be learnt is expectations should be proportional to reality. The media has had its part to play in making the common cricket fan believe the World Cup win was a possibility, and that includes yours truly.
Even before the first rays of Caribbean sunshine hit the Indian players, the talking point was the super eight. A preliminary stage that had two tricky opponents was conveniently forgotten. In the Champions Trophy, all the men in blue were able to achieve was a hard-fought win over England. So, on the big stage, the team has achieved one notable win in their last six games (forget Bermuda for a minute) and that is never going to be enough to satisfy a billion fans.
The lessons are yet to be learnt. Speculation is rife on who the next skipper and coach will be. Without mentioning names let all of us who follow the game understand one thing: The best available XI has to be picked, and the best man to lead the side will have to be picked from that lot, otherwise the present selection committee will be repeating some old mistakes.
The money that flows in to the game in this part of the world is phenomenal, but that alone cannot guarantee success in the field of play. The English Premier League or the NBA might have made football and basketball popular and rich in England and the USA respectively, but that has not led to the national teams doing well on the international stage.
In the same way, the game lacks nothing in this country. We have money, infrastructure and more importantly the first class structure (sans the wicket) that can produce good cricketers. But sadly there is something amiss in the links that we have to identify quickly, and rectify.
Indian cricket will have a tough road to travel after this debacle and it will be some time before the advertisers start to regain confidence in the game as a viable medium. But all this should do more good to Indian cricket than bad. The hard lessons will have to be learnt and the right path has to be taken from here. Let us not get too emotional and consider this only a sport, then the two imposters can be treated equally.
All said and done, the players have let the fans down, and the blame cannot be on pressure that is created by the media and fans. When the players bask in glory when they win and enjoy every second of the go- like status bestowed on them they should also be ready to face the flak when they fail. As a professional sportsman, one has to learn to live with the weight of expectations.
It is time the media, and that includes yours truly, presents the game responsibly. And die-hard followers should understand this team is not as good as it looks or made out to be. There is scope for improvement with the given talent, provided they learn from their mistakes.