Karachi:India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni doffed his hat at spin sensation Ajantha Mendis and had no qualms in admitting that his team succumbed to a 'Mendis-phobia' in the Asia Cup final on Sunday night.
Mendis, who was adjudged both Man of the Match and Man of the Tournament, made all the difference in the final with a six-wicket haul as Sri Lanka cantered to a 100-run win.
Asked if India succumbed to a Mendis-phobia in the final, Dhoni said, "I think it was so. I think he was too hot to handle. We were playing him for the first time and he was lethal. In fact none of us could pick him.
"He came to bowl in the 10th over and bowled brilliantly. Whenever we were trying to repair, he came and grabbed wickets," Dhoni said.
"However, it was a good learning curve, especially because we would be touring Sri Lanka for Test and ODI series there," he said.
Reminded about India's dismal record of losing 18 out of 22 finals, Dhoni said, "It's surely disappointing but still the fact that we made to 22 finals is a positive, because not every team manages to do that. But surely it would be great to win some more in the future."
Talking about the Sri Lanka tour, Dhoni reckoned it would not be easy to beat the islanders at home.
"The conditions there would suit them and it's not only Mendis, but (Muttiah) Muralitharan as well there. Besides, their part-timers also do well at home."
His Lankan counterpart Mahela Jayawardene said though 273 may not have looked impressive on the flat track of the National Stadium but it was always a fighting total.
"I've played in enough finals to realise that 270-280 was a good total, especially when you have two full-time spinners.
We were in trouble when (Virender) Sehwag started attacking us but then Ajantha came and bowled a brilliant spell. Murali also put lot of pressure on them, as did (Chaminda) Vaas."
Showering praise on Sanath Jayasuriya, whose 114-ball 125, propped up the Lankan innings, Jayawardene said, "Sanath's century kept us in the game. He did what he does best. It was a tremendous effort from the guys."
Mendis, who spoke through his captain, was basking in his new-found glory.
"He said he had a great experience in what is his first major tournament. He has learnt a lot. He did not think about the opposition but only tried to bowl in the right areas and feels lucky to have got so many wickets," Jayawardene said.
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf was also present on the occasion and he congratulated all for making it a successful tournament.
"I thank the Pakistani crowd for cheering for the teams and extending hospitality to the visitors. I think even the Pakistan team too extended hospitality by allowing two visiting teams reach the final," he quipped.