Sydney/New Delhi: A pall of gloom descended on the Indian dressing room after the team's campaign in the World Cup came to an agonising end here on Thursday, and the pain of losing the semi-finals engulfed the entire cricket-crazy nation that was left grief-stricken.
Disappointment was writ large on the faces of players and their captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni after they succumbed to pressure against the clinical Australians, who decimated the defending champions by 95 runs to romp into the finals and break a million Indian hearts.
While Dhoni and his men managed to put up a brave face at the post-match presentation ceremony, many broke down at the Sydney Cricket Ground and miles away from the hallowed turf.
Angst was also one of emotions on display in a country that lives by the cliche 'cricket is religion and cricketers are God'.
A man reportedly broke his television set in Ranchi, the hometown of Dhoni, while a few of them were learnt to have burnt the posters of their favourite icons.
While a family in the capital has gone into mourning cancelling a planned weekend celebration, in Mumbai and Kolkata, supporters of the Men in Blue were seen consoling each other with a hug after the defeat.
The Indians in Australia and back in India had planned their Sunday keeping the grand finale in mind, only to see their hopes being dashed by this loss.
"I had planned a leave on Sunday hoping to watch the match in the comforts of my home. I begged my boss to grant me leave... Now I am feeling shattered, so badly I wanted them to win," said Trisha, a young journalist.
Shiny, a software professional, also had her plans
chalked out in advance.
"After such a great run, losing in this manner was something we could never imagine. It is definitely a very sad moment for all of us," she said, flanked by her team members.
Similar was the reaction of Debolina and Shoumik, a doctor couple.
It was not only the youngsters but the elderly ones were also affected by the reverse.
The build-up to the mega event had raised more apprehension than hope amid rumours of all not being well in the dressing room, but the team's stunning turnaround after the winless Test and ODI campaign Down Under raised hopes of a second successive world title.
"I don't know whether I will live to see India win an ODI World Cup title again, the most prized achievement in cricket," said 79-year-old Gulshan Lal Khanna, a retired professor.
In an engrossing semifinal clash, four-time champions Australia rode on Steve Smith's classy 105 to post an imposing 328/7 before bundling out India for 233 in 46.5 overs to set up a summit clash with trans-Tasmanian rivals and co-hosts New Zealand in Melbourne on Sunday.
After a dream run which saw them win seven matches on the trot, India's quest for a second successive World Cup title was finally thwarted by the formidable Australians, who outplayed Mahendra Singh Dhoni's bravehearts in every department at the fully-packed SCG.