It’s the hope that kills.
India’s hopes in the semi-final against New Zealand were alive till the second ball of the 48th over. After being reduced to 5/3 in the chase of 240 runs, the Indian cheers turned into dejected whispers. The fans found their voice back when Ravindra Jadeja played the messiah knock. Once he went back, it was all about one man who was batting on 42 from 68 balls at the other end.
Yes, the equation of 31 from 12 balls does generally favour the fielding side but not when MS Dhoni is on the strike. The batsman knew Williamson’s predicament. The New Zealand captain had used up his frontline bowlers and the last over had to be bowled by the all-rounder James Neesham. Dhoni knew he could leave around 20 runs for the last over and then thump Neesham in the one-on-one battle. That’s what the finest ODI finisher ever had always done.
Lockie Ferguson stepped up to bowl the penultimate over. His first ball was short and wide. Dhoni having a full go at it, slashed with his typical whip. The ball just managed to beat the flying fielder at deep point and ended up as a six. What followed was a good length ball which was treated with respect. A dot ball. The target was now 25 runs from 10 balls. Next was a short delivery that unsettled Dhoni for a moment. He somehow dabbed it into the vacant square leg area. The batsman rushed for the single and seeing fielder swooping down on it, stormed back for the second. From deep square leg, it was Martin Guptill who was running in to pick up the ball.
The highest run-getter of the 2015 World Cup, Martin Guptill had been off-colour in the tournament. In nine matches, he had scored only 167 runs at an average of 20.87 with only one half-century. Colin de Grandhomme, who batted at sixth or seventh position, had scored more runs than the opener. Even in the semi-final, Guptill was the first wicket to fall to leave New Zealand reeling at 1/1 in 3.3 overs. The batsman furiously threw away his bat and helmet once he reached the pavilion. His stay at the crease yielded 1 run from 14 balls.
Guptill tried to make amends via his fielding. He had taken eight catches in the tournament, one of which was a lightning-fast grab at the short fine leg to send back Steve Smith. According to the Cricviz graphic displayed in the semi-final, Guptill had saved as many as 34 runs in the field. In the ongoing tournament, only Jadeja had saved more. In the penultimate over of the semi-final against India, he was standing at the deep square leg. He ran in once he saw the ball hit by Dhoni coming towards him.
Running in, Guptill picked up the ball with his right hand and threw it back instantly. The ball crashed into the stumps as Dhoni sprinted in with all his might. Once the decision went upstairs, the third umpire needed to see only one frame to give his verdict. Guptill’s throw did not only shatter the stumps but it also broke the Indian dreams. India lost by 18 runs.
Crestfallen Dhoni walked back to the pavilion. Perhaps, 25 from 10 balls was too much to do. Or maybe this was to be the final chapter in a glorious career, we will never know. Even at that stage, there was a dying hope that we will see the Dhoni we knew and cherished. Yes, it was not to be, but it’s the hope that kills.