Former players on Wednesday slammed the Indian cricket team for its humiliating exit from the Twenty20 [ Images ] World Cup, attributing the debacle to skipper MS Dhoni's [ Images ] poor tactics, IPL fatigue and the players' failure to cope with rising deliveries.
Otherwise a Dhoni admirer, cricketer-turned-commentator Ravi Shastri had no doubt that the debacle in the Caribbean Islands was Dhoni's worst outing as the Indian captain and he advised him to be more flexible in his approach.
"It's hard to put a finger on the exact reason but of all the tournaments Dhoni has led India in, it is the most disappointing," Shastri said.
"At times you can be stubborn and stick to your ideas but he might want to be a little more flexible in future," he said.
To buttress his case, Shastri referred to India's match against Sri Lanka [ Images ], which Dhoni's men managed to lose despite a great start to their innings.
"Only 73 runs were scored in the last 10 overs despite having nine wickets in hand. There is no explanation for that. Tactically Yusuf Pathan [ Images ] should have come up the batting order," said Shastri, who felt India needed to see beyond the current set of players.
"Selectors will have to look for Twenty20 players who can play in all kind of conditions," he added.
Dhoni tried to provide an explanation for the team's jaded look in the tournament, saying IPL post-match parties and the travelling took its toll on his team-mates.
Former India captain Mohd Azharuddin felt the same but he said that cannot be cited as an excuse.
"Obviously if you stay up the whole night, it would affect you. Players should be responsible enough. The game is more important than the parties. Excuses like these cannot be given after you lose," he said.
"For a player, cricket should come first and everything else is secondary," he added.
Member of India's 1983 World Cup winning squad Madan Lal, however, was rather annoyed at Dhoni for making "silly excuses".
"I don't think that's a reason. Who was forcing them to attend these parties? They could have said no. I don't think they should say all this. These are silly excuses," he said.
"Fact is they had gone there to win the World Cup and they just weren't good enough," he added.
Former chief selector Syed Kirmani said "there was complete lack of application and concentration" from Indian players and they cannot complain of fatigue after crashing out.
"If players were tired, they should have told the board that they need rest. I don't want to criticise them just because they failed in a tournament. There are always ups and downs in cricket and I think they are going through a bad luck cycle," Kirmani said.
"I think maybe the board should identify some youngsters who can play only Twenty20s and have a different Test side. I mean in India, we can easily have different Test, ODI and Twenty20 sides because talent is abundant here," he added.
Kirmani said Dhoni would have to take the blame for the debacle as he is the one getting the accolades when the team does well.
"If the team does well, the captain gets all the accolades and he will have to bear the brunt of the team's failure as well. I think Dhoni has been a very lucky captain but you cannot have all the luck all the time. It's a cycle. He has been the same captain going into a match with the same plans.
His captaincy cannot be bad overnight," he said.
Kirmani felt the team should have travelled to the West Indies [ Images ] at least a week before the tournament to acclimatise to the conditions.
"It is expected that Indian team would win every match and every tournament but that is not possible. There was lack of application indeed. Probably they should have gone to the West Indies a week or 15 days before the tournament to get acclimatised to the conditions," he said.
"From the slow Indian pitches in IPL, they went to the Caribbean tracks where short balls flew past so close their nose that they could smell the cherry," he added.
Another former player Sanjay Manjrekar said blaming the IPL is the most obvious reaction but the players also have to sort out their susceptibility to the rising delivery.
"The two critical games that India lost against Australia [ Images ] and West Indies were purely because the top-order batsmen couldn't cope with the short deliveries. That cannot be attributed to the IPL," he pointed out.
"It is a technical weakness they have. I would not hold the IPL as responsible as some of the technical frailties of the top-order batsmen have remained unaddressed," he added.
Former coach Anshuman Gaekwad felt there was hardly anything right about India's approach and said coach Gary Kirsten and senior players should have provided more inputs.
"Team combination, bowling changes, field positions, nothing was in place. Even if Dhoni made mistakes, I think the coach and the senior players should have helped him," said the former player.
Former India skipper Dilip Vengsarkar blamed the fatigue caused by the hectic IPL for the Indian team's unceremonious exit from the Twenty20 World Cup.
The ex-chief selector felt it was very difficult for the squad to maintain the intensity with which the members had played for six weeks in the IPL that preceded the World Cup.
"I guess the Indian players looked jaded and tired as the high pressure, high intensity Indian Premier League [ Images ] has taken its toll on them mentally and physically. It was very difficult for them to play with the same intensity in the tournament of such a magnitude," Vengsarkar said.