It was a case of so near yet so far for the Indians as they went down to New Zealand in a thrilling clash in the World Cup semifinals at Old Trafford, Manchester on Wednesday. However, the abiding memory of this match that will remain etched in the minds of cricket lovers for a long time will be Dhoni walking back to the pavilion after being run-out in what could probably be his last ODI World Cup.
Dhoni came to the crease with the side tottering at 92 for 6. He went about reviving the innings in the company of Ravindra Jadeja who stroked a belligerent 77 off 59 balls and the duo almost took India to the brink of a famous win.
After Jadeja got out, it was left to Dhoni to see India through along with the tail. Going into the last two overs, India needed 31 runs. Dhoni uppercut Lockie Ferguson, who came back into the attack, for a six over point off the first ball to leave the equation at 25 off 11 balls. Off the second ball, there was no run as Dhoni jabbed it back to the bowler.
Off the third ball, Dhoni went for a quick brace but ended up agonisingly short of the crease. As the champion batsman walked back to the pavilion in what could be his last ODI World Cup in all probability, a flurry of emotions would have gone through his head.
The crowd stood on their feet acknowledging the moment and it was a fitting tribute to a man who has given so much for Indian cricket.
However, during the course of this tournament, Dhoni did come in for criticism for his slow approach especially against England in the group game. Chasing a stiff target of 337, even though Dhoni scored 42 off 31 balls, he was rapped for taking singles in the last few overs and not going for the big hits.
"I don't have an explanation for that. You asked me the question but I can't explain these singles. It's also the length and the bounce that has deceived the Indian batsmen. You can't be chasing 338 and still have five wickets in the end.
It's about mindset and the way you look at the game. The message had to be clear: no matter where it comes and no matter where the ball lands you have to find the boundary,” Ganguly had said while commentating during the last 10 overs of India's chase.
Even former England skipper Nasser Hussain was surprised at Dhoni’s approach. "I am completely baffled. What's going on! This is not what India needed. They need runs. What are they doing? Some Indian fans are leaving now. Surely they must want to see Dhoni go for his shots, even if he slogs it off in the air. It's a World Cup game, top two sides, give it a go! Indian fans would want their side to do a little bit more. They want their side to go down with a fight. Risk it to win it," said Hussain.
Dhoni has several distinctions to his credit having won the T20 and ODI World Cups as well as the ICC Champions Trophy captaining India. He has been labelled the ‘finisher’ for his knack of taking India over the line in many tight finishes.
Several wishes poured in for Dhoni recognising the weight of his achievements.
Heartbroken at India's exit from the #CWC19— Lokesh Nara (@naralokesh) July 10, 2019
Nevertheless #Jadeja and #Dhoni put up a great fight to bring the game down to the wire.
It just wasn't our day!
Let's give credit to @imVkohli & his team for playing their hearts out !! #indiavsNewzealand
Probably the last time we saw The Man The Myth The Legend MS Dhoni ever play for India#ThanakyouDhoni #MSDhoni #SirJadeja #INDvNz #INDvsNz #Dhoni #indvsNz #indiavsNewzealand pic.twitter.com/oLil8YUF5O— Freaky ~ DRaval (@HODL_till_2140) July 10, 2019
A close match that could've ended even more terribly if not for #Dhoni and #Jaddu. They almost took it over but you've got to give it to NZ for their overall great performance. #CWC19 #IndVsNewZealand— Haricharan Pudipeddi (@pudiharicharan) July 10, 2019
Absolutely heartbroken for #teamindia .. You played like true champions throughout but it wasn’t meant to be.. Thank you #dhoni #jadeja for at least giving us hope today after that disastrous start...experience truly counts! Congrats & well played #NewZealand #INDvNZ #cwc19— Sophie C (@Sophie_Choudry) July 10, 2019
Heartbreaking to see India lose today but #Dhoni you beauty, you proved today why you’re my favourite... he gives every match his all and he really tried hard to pull through for us...Much love and respect to our former skipper— Pooja Hegde (@hegdepooja) July 10, 2019