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Dhoni out or Not out: The beginning and end of the Dhoni era

“Dhoni finishes off in style”. The booming voice of Ravi Shastri was music to the ears of every devout Indian fan. Who can forget the day, 2nd April 2011? “India lift the Cup after 28 years”. Arguably, what has been the biggest testimony to Indian Cricket’s excellence over the decade.

Fast-forward to near eight years, and five months later. From a jam-packed, confidence inspiring Wankhede background, the game has now shifted. Of course, with the Bharat Army around, there’s hardly a feeling of ‘far from home’ for our men in blue. But, the game situation has changed dramatically. There’s a certain uncertainty, a slight tension within the crowd. Jadeja has just walked back to the pavilion, Bhuvneshwar Kumar is yet to face a ball. The equation reads a lot more tougher than it had back all those years ago. It’s not, “just one hit”, in fact, a couple of good hits away. Yet, amidst the massive change in setting and situation, the orchestrator remains the same, seasoned man, aged nine years elder.

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His intent, he makes it clear, with a powerful cut towards deep backward point. Lochie Ferguson’s first ball of the over gets dispatched for a six. The pressure rests back with Ferguson, who only knows too well the misfortune that can befall upon him. For not even two years back, he had been a teammate to the man whom he was now bowling to. Of course, it doesn’t take a season with the Rising Pune Supergiant to figure out what MS Dhoni’s gameplan is at the death overs. Throughout the 15 years of his playing career, his finishing formula has been the same, and one that has garnered him success. “Take the game deep, so that the bowlers fear your hitting at the death”. A mantra everyone knows just well. Next ball, he does better, gets up the length fuller to hold Dhoni back at his crease.

The equation has boiled down to 25 of 10. Not an equation that can particularly deter the likes of Dhoni. That’s when Lockie decides to got for the weapon. A shortish ball, drifting towards leg. Some concentration, and Dhoni could have hammered it towards mid-wicket. Lack of it, and Tom Latham could’ve had sniffed the imperfect top-edge, concluding the game there itself. Instead, there’s something different. A deft-pull, maneuvering the ball towards square-leg. An assured single, if quick enough, chance of a double. Has to be quick, though, since the fielder has collected the ball. There’s the throw, there’s the run, and…

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Martin Guptill has not had the best tournament so far. His tally of runs in this World Cup falls 70 short of the havoc innings he had played four years back at Wellington, against the West Indies. Many called for him to be dropped, least for one game. His answer, to silence each one of his critics, comes flashing on the big-screen. A single moment of brilliance, had taken his team from “Yes We Kane” to “Yes, we can”. His throw at the wicketkeeper’s end, meant that MS Dhoni’s innings had come to an end.

But for the crest-fallen Indian fan, it was not that easy a pill to swallow. More than an astounding 73rd career fifty, more than a valiant recovery fightback, more than anything else-it marked, possibly, the end of an era. The likes of Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan were given the licence to go for the kill. Virat Kohli made his name as the biggest commodity in World Cricket. An era, where the Indian bowler was encouraged to go for the wickets, and not fret about conceding runs. And, as none can forget, an era, where India reminisced to its peak height and clinched the three biggest trophies in international cricket.

Its funny to think how a career, that commenced with a first ball run-out is nearing its possible end in a similar fashion. Yet, all that happened in that quick, frustrated span; from coach Keshav Banerjee’s wife calling “Cha Khaabe?”; to Ian Smith’s resounding words, “That says, the magic three letter word, and MS Dhoni- is it the last time he leaves the big stage?”- all that has elapsed during this journey has inspired millions of people at every corner of the world. To think, one throw from Guptill, is all that it took to end this.

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