New Delhi: Indian skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni faced calls to quit on Wednesday after his team's exit from the World Twenty20, with pundits lining up to condemn his tactics as well as the misfiring top order.
"Every captain's term has a shelf life and after five years at the helm, Dhoni's seems to have come to an end," said the Mail Today in a blistering review of his "mind-boggling decision-making" during Tuesday's game with South Africa.
"The entire match was littered with his mistakes," it added. Although India scraped a one-run victory over the Proteas in Colombo, they fell well short of the run rate required to reach the semi-finals.
Much of the criticism levelled at the captain revolved around the dropping of spinner Harbhajan Singh, who had been the team's most economical bowler. The Times of India accused him of committing "a major captaincy gaffe" by dropping a player who finished with figures of 4 for 12 when India crushed England in the opening round.
"Dhoni will have much answering to do about why he didn't play veteran offspinner Harbhajan Singh on a wicket on which Pakistan played four spinners against Australia with much success," said the paper.
"The Proteas are as bad players of spin as anybody in the world." Dhoni has been one of the most successful captains in Indian history, leading the team to victory in the inaugural World Twenty20 in South Africa in 2007 and at last year's 50-over World Cup. He also steered them to the top of the Test rankings.
However, the team has slipped to number five in the Test rankings and India have failed to reach the final stages of the past three Twenty20 tournaments. "Tough questions and tough decisions can't wait forever."
Dhoni, whose top score in the tournament was just 23, was one of host of big-name Indian batsmen who failed to spark in Sri Lanka. Apart from Virat Kohli, the entire Indian team only managed one half century in the whole tournament. Openers Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag once again flopped against South Africa as the team slumped to 36 for 3.
"India's batting not for the first time in the tournament struggled to make an impact," said the Indian Express. In his post-match press conference, Dhoni acknowledged his team's batting failures. "It was tragic to see India crash out despite the batting line-up that they possess," said The Times of India, adding that they only "had themselves to blame".