A fair crowd had gathered at the Taj Samundra in Colombo after India were knocked out of the World T20 tournament despite winning the match against South Africa. The fans were hoping to say goodbye and perhaps give the boys a pat on the back.
But even after two hours had passed since the end of the match, there was no sign of the team. The fans were starting to get restless.
Then came the news that the Indian team had made a back-door entry and taken the service elevator to go to their rooms. It wasn’t a lot but it was enough to set the rumour mills into motion.
It didn’t take long for some TV channels to start flashing the news that the Indian team’s sullen mood was a result of a dressing down by Duncan Fletcher.
Now, the Indian coach apparently took a cue from his predecessor Gary Kirsten who had given the team a tongue lashing after their exit from the 2010 World T20 tournament.
Kirsten had then told the Indian players that he was angry to see that even he -a 42-year-old - was fitter than some of the players. Yuvraj and Rohit Sharma had got a special mention with regards to fitness, according to sources.
The players were called to Kirsten’s room one-by-one to get a break down of their game. Kirsten had demanded better fitness from the players and had given them one month to show results on that front.
Now, according to TV channels, Fletcher – who is known for his quiet demeanour – has done pretty much the same thing.
To put it briefly, Fletcher asked the players to stand in front of a mirror and assess their fitness levels. He also asked them whether they really knew what they were trying to achieve in international cricket. He ended by saying that the players needed to work much harder in the time to come.
But Firstpost spoke to some players in the team who completely denied the story.
They said the reason the team took the service elevator was because of the trouble that they experienced after the Pakistan game when Harbhajan was hoisted on someone’s shoulders and Kohli received minor injuries on his neck as the fans tried to get close to him. So they chose to not let such a situation arise again.
As for the dressing down by Fletcher, the players said that it was grossly misinterpreted. There was a meeting but there was no tongue-lashing. Instead, they said that Fletcher tried to inspire the team ahead of the tough series against England.
“Go back home with your heads held high. At the end of the day, you won 4 out of 5 matches and have only gone out on a technicality and rain. Of course, you need to work harder but this wasn’t a bad effort.”
Now, this seems more in line with what Mahendra Singh Dhoni said in the press conference after his team was knocked out as well. To win by
31 runs in a T20 match was always a big ask – it’s the equivalent of winning an ODI by 100 runs. And the Indian team expectedly fell short.
Dhoni, the India skipper, had termed India’s performance as satisfactory.
“The performance was satisfactory. We didn’t think that the other match would impact us so much. We knew that it would affect us but as you saw the required margin for winning was too big so we had a bit of a problem.”
And truthfully, given the resources that Dhoni had at his disposal, the team probably performed to its potential. They eased up for one match and paid the price for it.