Millions of cricket-crazy India fans could only look on in horror as the 1983 winners and finalists four years ago were handed a humiliating 69-run defeat by a rampant Sri Lanka in a make-or-break Group B clash on Friday.
The loss was their second in three games after Bangladesh shocked them last week by cashing on another inept batting display by a lineup full of seasoned campaigners.
The team, and their legion of fans now pin their faint hopes on an unlikely Bangla defeat against debutants Bermuda if India nurture any chance of reaching the Super Eights stage.
"We did not deserve to go to the next round," a dejected skipper Rahul Dravid told reporters.
An early exit would be the most painful for four Indian stalwarts - batsmen Sachin Tendulkar, Dravid, Saurav Ganguly and leg spinner Anil Kumble - all in their 30s and set to end their illustrious careers without a World Cup winner's medal.
The three batsmen are among only six players to surpass 10,000 one-day runs with Tendulkar holding the records for most one-day runs, hundreds and caps.
The 33-year-old Tendulkar also faces questions over his one-day future after failing to score in both defeats.
The team must now face up to a volatile reception on their return to India, the game's commercial hub, where the players are treated like demi-gods and earn in millions in endorsements.
Skipper Dravid and coach Greg Chappell will find it hard to renew their jobs after being appointed up until the end of the World Cup.
However, despite India's depth of talent, the warning signs of what was to come had been evident in the build-up to the tournament.
The squad was dubbed 'Dad's Army' by the media for containing a fair number of ageing players, which, as expected, affected the fielding.
India had also suffered a run of poor one-day dating back to the middle of 2006, which resulted in their failure to reach the semi-finals of the ICC Champions Trophy they hosted late last year.
Chappell's policy of backing youth did not pay dividends either.
Left-arm seamer Irfan Pathan was included amidst concerns over his form and he did not play a match at the World Cup.
Middle order batsman Mohammad Kaif and young left-handed batsman Suresh Raina, both excellent fielders, did not even make it to the final 15 after repeated failures.
The Indian skipper and Chappell struggled to explain why the team failed, but admitted they succumbed to pressure.
The Indian board now has the responsibility of finding fresh talent as many in the current squad are well past their prime.
Dravid called upon cricket officials to study reasons for the defeat and how best to rebuild.
"There is a lot of introspection and disappointment in the dressing room," he said.
"It is time for everyone to sit back and discuss the whole issue and how we can get better, they should sit back and reflect about it rationally.