India virtually crashed out in the first round of the World Cup after they suffered a shattering 69-run defeat in their crunch Group B match against Sri Lanka on Friday.
A stunning batting collapse on a good Queen’s Park Oval pitch condemned India to a total of 185 all out and allowed Sri Lanka to top the group with a maximum six points.
The 1983 champions were skittled in the 44th over as they failed miserably in their attempt to chase Sri Lanka’s challenging total of 254 for six.
India’s slim hopes of progressing now hinge on an unlikely defeat for Bangladesh in Sunday’s final group game against debutants Bermuda.
The team, who have won just one out of their three games in Trinidad, paid the price for a shock defeat against Bangladesh last Saturday and look set to join Pakistan on an early flight out of the Caribbean.
Both openers Robin Uthappa (18) and Saurav Ganguly (7) threw away their wickets by hitting out against experienced paceman Chaminda Vaas before India were reduced to 136 for 7.
Off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan dismissed the well-set Virender Sehwag (48) and the dangerous Mahendra Dhoni, for a first ball duck, to kill any Indian hopes of a fightback.
Sachin Tendulkar was out for a third ball duck in possibly his last World Cup innings after playing fast bowler Dilhara Fernando on to the stumps.
Skipper Rahul Dravid, batting with a runner in the late stages due to a calf injury, top-scored with 60 before being the eighth batsman to be dismissed.
The Indian defeat somewhat took away attention from Sri Lanka’s magnificent showing in the World Cup so far. They will carry two points into the Super Eights for beating a fellow qualifying side.
The result left millions of fans dejected in cricket-mad India as well as thousands of supporters in the stadium. Muralitharan took three for 41 and Vaas 2-39. Sri Lanka’s authoritative batting display was in start contrast to India’s meek surrender.
Opening batsman Upul Tharanga (64) and Chamara Silva (59) struck fifties to guide Sri Lanka to 254 for six after being asked to bat first in seaming conditions by Dravid.
Silva struck his third successive fifty before he was dismissed for the first time in four matches.
The 27-year-old, who had scored 107, 55 and 52 without being out before Friday’s match eventually fell, nicking Zaheer Khan behind the stumps in a bid to step up scoring.
Tharanga steadied the innings by scoring his sixth one-day fifty after pacemen Zaheer and Ajit Agarkar removed the dangerous Sanath Jayasuriya (6) and skipper Mahela Jayawardene cheaply.
He hit six fours in his 90-ball knock.
‘It is just a gameÃ¢â‚¬â„¢
Meanwhile, India coach Greg Chappell hopes the team’s defeat will not spark violence in the cricket-crazy country.
Indian fans resorted to violence after the team’s defeat to Bangladesh last week.
”In the light of recent incidents, you’ve got to be concerned,” Chappell told a news conference.
”Again, when India wakes up tomorrow [Saturday] they will be disappointed. There will probably be many of them who will be angry with what has happened. [But] I hope people realise that it is just a game.
The former Australian skipper refused to lay the blame at anyone’s door for India’s poor performances.
”It is a very emotional time for a lot of people and in the light of recent incidents I’m not going to be making any comments on what is wrong with anything or anybody,” he said.
Chappell said India had a history of failing in major one-day events overseas and had not won since they triumphed in the World Series tournament in 1985 in Australia, two years after their World Cup victory in England.
Dravid said India did not deserve to qualify for the next round after playing such poor cricket but hoped reaction back home would not pose problems for his players on their return.
”I hope that the players won’t be under any physical danger,” he said. ”I don’t expect that to be the case to be honest. People will be disappointed and that is fair enough.
”They had invested a lot of hope in this team and we haven’t delivered.”
The Indian skipper said it was hugely disappointing he and senior teammates such as Sachin Tendulkar, Saurav Ganguly and Anil Kumble might end their careers without a World Cup medal.
”It is not an ideal scenario,” he said. ”If you were writing a fairytale, you wouldn’t write it this way.
”That is the beauty and cruelty of sports sometimes.” – Reuters