Dejection writ large on his face after losing the ODI series to Australia, India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni said his team lost Sunday's do-or-die match in the first 15 minutes itself.
Dhoni's gamble to bat first on a tricky track boomeranged and the match virtually slipped out of their hand by nine overs when the home side was gasping for breath at 27 for five.
"During the toss I said that the first half hour will be crucial for us but the first 15 minutes proved more than enough," Dhoni said after the match.
"We lost quite a few wickets after that we never really were in the game," he explained. With today's win, Australia took an unassailable 4-2 lead in the series.
For Australia, pace duo of Doug Bollinger (5/35) and Mitchell Johnson 3/39) made merry on a wicket which offered generous movement even though Dhoni defended his decision to bat first and felt a score in the vicinity of 220 could have been enough.
"Of course there was a bit of movement in the wicket but overall I think the Australians bowled really well.
"We could have batted second looking at the conditions but then also it would have been tough because the spinners were getting great amount of turn. I think we were fortunate enough to score 170 as at one stage, 150 was looking tough. We fell short by 50-55 runs," Dhoni said.
The Indian captain said losing a couple of close games made all the difference in the series.
"The Mohali game followed by the Hyderabad game, we should have won both. In both the matches the Australians took the game away from us. A couple of mistakes we made in the field and we lost the games," he added.
His counterpart Ricky Ponting, meanwhile, lauded his team for their spirited display, especially after losing some of their key players to injuries and said it was a memorable series win for him.
"I couldn't be happier. (This is) probably one of the best series I have been involved with. It was heartening to see the boys gel as a group especially after so many injuries. The performance of the team in the last two games have been satisfying," an ecstatic Ponting said.
Dhoni defended his debatable decision to bat first in the sixth ODI against Australia and blamed the team's inconsistent batting for their series defeat.
Blaming the batsmen for not applying them enough, Dhoni said it was just a matter of seeing through the first half an hour which the hosts failed to do.
"The pitch didn't misbehave in any way though there was a bit of movement for the fast bowlers early on. I said at the toss also that the first half-an-hour would be crucial and if we negotiate that we could set the total that we had in mind," a dejected Dhoni told reporters after the match.
Dhoni said he decided to bat first because the wicket had enough for the Indian spinners.
"Ground conditions and outfield were good. Of the wicket, I think it played superbly well. I think it was for the spinners more than the seam bowlers," he said.
"Initially, there was a bit of movement. But it was not off the wicket but because of the air as it was an early start. But as the day progressed it became better to bat on when the seamers were bowling in the second half. But I still think the spinners held the key on a wicket like this," Dhoni explained.
Dhoni conceded the match was as good as lost when the side lost its top half for a meagre 27.
"I think 27 for five was a bit too much. If we lost maybe one or two wickets, it would still be decent because you had the chance of getting back. We had a seventh batsman and we have also seen Harbhajan Singh and Praveen Kumar contributing to a certain extent," said Dhoni.
"It was difficult to come back after that. Even 150 was looking very difficult after that and we were fortunate to cross the mark after that," he added.
Overall, Dhoni observed, the batsmen had not been consistent in the series.
"I think we are lacking consistency in our batting. We haven't backed the opportunities that we have got. A majority of the batsmen haven't contributed at the same time. In the games where our top order didn't perform, our middle order also didn't bat well.
"In the end we have lost the series. We have done well in patches in this series but we haven't grabbed the opportunities," said Dhoni.
On his dubious LBW decision, he said, "Good or bad decisions are part and parcel of the game. Maybe we would have got 20 more runs, maybe we could have underscored by 10 runs. So whatever has happened, has happened."
On the upcoming full series against Sri Lanka, Dhoni said it would be a different ball game altogether.
"We are playing the Tests first and then the one-dayers. I am not quite worried about the batsmen because we have an experienced Test team. We will think about ODIs after the Tests are over," he said.
Team India lost a chance to be the No 1 ranked side and Dhoni said, "You have to win games to be no.1 side. I think losing games in the series, and not winning the series, that itself says everything.
"But, it is not that we are too much behind and we have much cricket coming up. We will get the opportunity to be no.1 again but as a team we don't really concentrate on that," said Dhoni. PTI