The Sydney dressing room was a quiet place on the night of March 26. India’s World Cup campaign had just ended at the hands of Australia and Mahendra Singh Dhoni gathered his players around for a brief talk. The players were feeling deflated and there wasn’t much energy in the room.
Dhoni, too, was “upset but very realistic”, recalled Ravichandran Ashwin, who sparkled with the ball that evening but ended up on the losing side. “He said we were beaten by the better team on the day — that we should have done better, chased better, but that’s how it can go sometimes,” Ashwin told The Indian Express.
“He told us to be proud of the way we played through the tournament and asked us to keep learning from it. He said, don’t forget all the good things you guys did on the field, the way you bowled, keep it in the memory and hold on to it,” Ashwin added.
Ashwin doesn’t remember too many of his team-mates speaking after the captain. “Not many spoke. We were all flat and just quiet. Dhoni was upset but realistic about how we went through the tournament. I wouldn’t say there was sadness, as in tears, but we were all flat.”
Ashwin stayed back in Sydney for two days with his wife before he flew back to India on the day of the final.
There hasn’t been any sustained backlash against the team, which won seven matches in a row on the way to the semifinal. “I think that as a nation we have come a long, long way. The public has been fabulous. Even in the last two days in Sydney, after the semis, everyone walked up to me and said, ‘Well done, well played, we are proud of you guys.’ You have got to give people credit for the way they have handled it. They have been appreciative and have actually helped our team,” Ashwin said.
“The kind of electric atmosphere in Melbourne for the game against South Africa was something else. It actually helped us perform better. I have nothing but great appreciation and gratitude for the way the fans have supported us. It just inspires us to turn out and do our best for the country,” he added