India skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni refused to blame the IPL for the team's Twenty20 World Cup debacle but conceded that after-match parties and hectic travelling during the glitzy league did take a toll on the players' fitness.
"Most of the players were fit and fresh. Players also need to be smart, not only about cricket but about other things going around in the IPL. We have to respect our bodies and give some time for it to recover because there is more to it than playing matches. Attending parties and traveling takes a toll," Dhoni said after India's five-wicket loss against Sri Lanka on Tuesday that knocked them out of the event.
The defeat was also India's third successive in the Super Eights stage, a disappointing low for the inaugural champions.
Dhoni said the six-week-long IPL was in itself not responsible for the debacle.
"Our performance does not have anything to do with IPL," said Dhoni.
"I wouldn't say the IPL was a set back for our preparation. In fact, it has helped us in match preparation for the World Cup. It has thrown up players like (Suresh) Raina, Rohit (Sharma), (Ravindra) Jadeja, (Pragyan) Ohja and (Amit) Mishra. It has groomed a lot of talent."
Dhoni rejected criticism of the team and said he is least affected by what is said about it.
"As Far as the sloganeering goes, I am not bothered about that. We try and do our best. We play for our country and we are more respectful to our country than those who do these sort of things. They can do whatever they want to," fumed Dhoni.
He said India had done their best although the results have not been too good.
"Whenever we go out there we try to do well. But you won't do well every time. We tried our best and did whatever we could have, but we still ended up being on the losing side," said a despondent Dhoni.
The wicketkeeper-batsman commended the Sri Lankans for their all-round show on Tuesday.
"They batted really well in the end overs. Also, they bowled very well after the 13th over and made it difficult for us to score.
"They were looking to bowl yorkers and to keep the ball outside off stump. You can't do much when someone bowls perfect yorkers. I and Raina were out there in the middle. It was really tough. But we were looking to slog everything thing," he said.
Dhoni said he did not regret batting first on Tuesday.
"I don't really regret batting first. If we had chased 150 batting second, it would not have been less than 10 runs an over, which is tough. Defending 163 was difficult. We fell short by a few runs. Had we scored 180 or more, the target would have been 160-170 and that would have been a good target to defend," said Dhoni.
Dhoni said this was the best Twenty20 side that India could field.
"We are not performing to our potential. I can't say why. But at the end of the day this is the best T20 side we have. It gets tough without players like Virender (Sehwag), Zaheer Khan (he suffered a blow on the right thumb) and Praveen Kumar," he said.
Asked if the Indians' vulnerability to the rising ball proved to be their downfall, Dhoni said, "I can't comment on that as you really can't stretch a tournament for too long. It required a bit of adaptation as we have played in similar conditions quite often. I can't say the wicket was such and we didn't perform well."
He said Indian batsmen had technical problem when it came to playing the short ball.
"Most of us have the problem of playing short pitched balls. So it is not just the youngsters who had problems. We can't neglect it any more. But we don't have bowlers who bowl consistently at 145-50 kph and most of wickets in India don't have that kind of bounce," he said.
"But we should also remember we are good players of spin. So we shouldn't be ashamed that we can't play short-pitch bowling. We have to play even against short-pitch but we can't be ducking and leaving all the time in Twenty20," he added.
On whether he was feeling the pressure of captaincy, Dhoni said, "You are always under pressure when you play for India. It is part and parcel of the game. I have not played any game till now when there is no pressure."
Notwithstanding the debacle in the World Cup, Dhoni said he had faith in his side.
"I have a side with lot of potential to do well, wherever we play. We had two or three poor tournaments. But other than that we have been consistent," said Dhoni.
India won both their preliminary Group C matches but lost their Super Eights matches to Australia (49 runs), West Indies 914 runs) and Sri Lanka (5 wickets).