If Dhoni the captain suffered, Dhoni the batsman prospered
Mahendra Singh Dhoni
The script certainly went wrong for Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
For someone whose captaincy started with a bang -- triumph in the inaugural Twenty20 World Cup -- and continued with spectacular successes in the Commonwealth Bank tri-series, away wins in Sri Lanka and New Zealand and home series wins against Australia and England, the winning run has hit a speed-breaker.
In terms of recent results -- save the inconsequential Compaq Cup in Sri Lanka -- the Dhoni-led Team India has only delivered colossal disasters.
Be it the failure to defend the Twenty20 Word Cup title in England or inability to get past the opening stage of the ICC Champions Trophy, to losing to a second string Australian side at home now, Dhoni was unable to prevent his team from faltering.
If Dhoni the captain suffered, Dhoni the batsman took up the responsibility rather well, even if meant controlling his natural instincts on many occasions for the sake of the team.
A spectacular 124 in Nagpur followed by an unbeaten 71 in New Delhi ensured Dhoni finished as India's top run-scorer against Australia in the seven-match series with an aggregate of 285 in six matches at an average of 57.
Image: Mahendra Singh Dhoni
Master Blaster unable to finish on positive note
On November 15, Sachin Tendulkar will complete 20 years in international cricket. And the Master Blaster is showing no signs of calling it quits any time soon.
His blade is still capable of slicing through the opposition's armoury -- as his magnificent 175 in the fifth match at Hyderabad proved -- and he keeps breaking records -- the 17,000 ODI runs mark being breached in Hyderabad.
But age can be defied up to a certain extent only and the passing years do tend to affect consistency. The fact that Tendulkar scored only 100 runs in five innings besides that super effort in Hyderabad proved that India could do better if it depends less on the legend.
And that in turn will relieve Tendulkar of some pressure and increase his batting career.
The biggest regret in all these 20 years is the fact that besides stray cases -- Sharjah in 1998, the Commonwealth Bank Series in 2008 and the recent Compaq Cup -- the Master Blaster has failed to perform in matches that matter and, more importantly, failed to finish things on a positive note.
Apologies to all his fans, but Hyderabad was yet another example!
Image: Sachin Tendulkar
Unable to build on explosive starts
Virender Sehwag is supremely talented, no question about that. And he is extremely entertaining when he is at the crease. No matter who the bowler is, the Delhi batsman dispatches him with utter disdain.
Having said that, Sehwag cannot be completely trusted and given complete responsibility. He can give the team an attacking start and an early advantage, but to expect him to carry on with his bat will be a bit too much.
The Hero Honda Cup was a case in point. Sehwag got of to a great start in almost all the matches only to throw away his wicket when the team could ill-afford that.
But that is Sehwag for you, or, as Dhoni puts it, "That's the way he bats, going after the bowlers straight away and sometimes losing his wicket."
Image: Virender Sehwag
Provided the team solidity at No 3
The reliable left-hander scored 68 and 76 in the first two matches against Australia -- at Baroda and Nagpur respectively.
An injury meant he missed the Mohali match, and India certainly missed his presence in the middle; though he featured at Hyderabad and Guwahati he did not look comfortable, and fell early on both occasions.
However, Gambhir, batting at No 3 to ensure Sachin Tendulkar and Virender Sehwag open the innings, does provide Team India the solidity at the position.
The one-time opener has effortlessly slipped on to the role once performed so well by Rahul Dravid.
And even Mahendra Singh Dhoni knows that in the Delhi batsman he has a player he can trust.
Image: Gautam Gambhir
Mixed fortunes with bat and ball
He did not play at Baroda, displayed flashes of brilliance at Nagpur (23 of 24 balls) and got into his rhythm in New Delhi.
His 78 in the aforesaid match -- coupled with a 148-run fourth wicket stand with M S Dhoni -- ensured India victory and him the man-of-the-match award. But, thereafter, Yuvi's luck ran out.
Scores of 12, 9 and 6 in the three subsequent matches can easily be dismissed as poor efforts, but many will agree that his run-out at Mohali was because of Ricky Ponting's brilliance rather than Yuvi's ineptitude, and his dismissal at Guwahati was unfortunate to an extent that even Ponting admitted that 'Yuvraj was unlucky to get out'.
On the positive side, Yuvraj had a decent outing with the ball, keeping a tight line and controlling the flow of runs to a considerable extent at a time when regular bowlers suffered.
Image: Yuvraj Singh
Complete package of batting, bowling and fielding
His 50-ball 62 at Nagpur was a treat -- the fact that he helped M S Dhoni (124) put on 136 in just 93 balls for the fifth wicket also ensured the match was won.
In Hyderabad, he survived to dropped catches to score a run-a-ball 59 and help Sachin Tendulkar put on 137 for the fifth wicket. However, his dismissal at a crucial juncture, followed by Sachin's, ensured it was curtains for India.
Raina is an asset in this Indian team, offering a complete package of batting, occasional bowling and exceptional fielding.
He only needs to be a tad more consistent.
Image: Suresh Raina
Delivered more with the ball than bat
He was under fire for failing to take Team India past the finishing line in two successive matches -- at Mohali and Hyderabad. Captain Dhoni defended him saying, 'Ravindra is bowling well.'
He did bowl well, especially in Nagpur (three for 35) and New Delhi (two for 41), and did try to silence those who criticized his batting with a painstaking 103-ball 57 in Guwahati.
But that was not enough to save the match for India.
And so were scores of 5, 9 and 23 from a player who is considered more of a batting all-rounder more than a bowler who can bat.
Image: Ravindra Jadeja
Disappointed as a strike bowler
The 'Turbanator' can definitely be classified as a bowler who can bat.
His 49 and 31 with the blade at Baroda and Mohali respectively took India close to victories. However, he perished trying to play extravagant shots on both occasions and India fell short in both matches.
But if his bat almost did the trick for India, his bowling failed India on more occasions than one.
His figures were atrocious at Baroda (10-0-57-1) and Nagpur (10-0-62-1), decent in New Delhi (10-0-37-1), Mohali (10-0-48-2) and Hyderabad (10-0-44-1), but the only time he seemed to bowl with rhythm was on a track that assisted spinners at Guwahati (10-1-23-2).
And a strike bowler, he disappointed by failing to take wickets.
Many might argue that his lack of wickets was because the Australians played him carefully. But, as a strike bowler, aren't you supposed to find newer means to take wickets?
And the motor-mouth that he is, he predicted at the start of the series that India would thrash this Australian team 5-2.
We all know what eventually happened.
Image: Harbhajan Singh
Praveen failed as a bowler
He disappointed with the ball.
Figures of 10-0-77-0 (Baroda) and 9-0-68-2 (Hyderabad) are hardly something one expects from someone who happens to be a strike bowler.
In Nagpur he did find some rhythm (8-1-37-2), but that was more because Dhoni and Raina had put the Australian batting on the back foot to begin with.
To give credit where it is due, his 32-ball 40 at Baroda and 51-ball 54 at Guwahati, were entertaining knocks but Praveen Kumar is in the side as a bowler.
And it is as a bowler that he failed.
Image: Praveen Kumar
Shouldn't be wasted in shorter form of the game
Considering the kind of atrocious form he displayed recently, Ishant Sharma's figures in Baroda (10-0-50-3) and Nagpur (8-0-34-2) are commendable.
However, he soon lost control and was subsequently dropped from the Indian squad for the matches in Hyderabad and Guwahati.
We have always said he is a good Test bowler and shouldn't be wasted in the shorter form of the game.
Image: Ishant Sharma
Nothing to shout about
When Ashish Nehra isn't bowling well he is a liability, something this Indian side can ill-afford.
He has never been known to use the long handle, a la Harbhajan, and the less said about the fielding the better.
Nehra did finish with eight wickets in the seven-match series but wasn't exactly economical.
Without going into the reasons, it would be suffice to say his only noteworthy figures came in Mohali (8-0-37-3).
And that is not much to speak of.
Image: Ashish Nehra
Munaf deserves more opportunity
Munaf played in just two games -- at Hyderabad and Guwahati.
He bowled badly in Hyderabad (9-0-73-0) but was exceptional in Guwahati (4-1-13-1).
He deserves more opportunity to prove his woth for sure.
Image: Munaf Patel
Destined to remain on the fringes
The Delhi youngster got two chances -- at Baroda and Mohali -- to cement his place in the side.
And he let go both.
Scores of 30 (Baroda) and 10 (Mohali) ensured he will remain a player on the fringes for some more time.
Image: Virat Kohli