‘All great men fall, its’ but time and method that differ,’ once said a wise man. The 2019 World Cup semi-final against New Zealand marked the end of MS Dhoni’s stay at the peak of international cricket, on this very day, June 10, two years ago.

Having withdrawn from captaincy in 2017, the 2019 edition of the World Cup, hosted by the United Kingdom, was Dhoni’s first appearance in the tournament without being the leader, since 2007. He walked in with Team India at 71 for five, and needing another 169 runs at a run rate above six an over for a place in the final.

When Ravindra Jadeja joined Dhoni in the middle, the equation read 148 needed from 117 balls. But given Dhoni’s past record, Indian fans remained cautiously optimistic. Jadeja though took on the mantle, and got to his half-century in just 38 balls. His partner was at 28 from 52.

Jadeja’s innings soon became the highest by a number eight batsman or lower in World Cup semi-final history. He took on the steaming likes of Trent Boult and Locki Ferguson, reducing the equation to 52 runs needed off five overs – a negotiable ask as per IPL standards.

 

Meanwhile, Dhoni was simply leaving deliveries, even until the 45th over. By the time Jadeja (77 off 59) was out caught, trying to dispatch a Boult slower one, Dhoni was reeling at 42 off 68, scoring only four runs off three balls previously in the 48th over. His strike rate was a paltry 62, as compared to Jadeja’s 131.

Dhoni did hit a six in the next over, but it was too little too late, as he was dismissed run out a couple of balls later by an astonishing Martin Guptill direct hit from the boundary. With that, Team India exited the tournament, despite being the favourites to trump New Zealand.

It would be easy to scapegoat MS Dhoni in this case, but he was given the benefit of doubt for his match-winning antics through the years. Some fans however, argued that his underwhelming performances, under the cosh, have gone rather unnoticed; and also that such luxury is only afforded to him and none of his other contemporaries.

We dug through the archives to find more of such knocks, which in their isolated context don’t flatter the former Indian skipper, who has scored more than 10,000 runs in ODI cricket.

India v Afghanistan, 2019 World Cup

Earlier in the 2019 WC, Dhoni had shown signs of struggle while batting, especially against the Afghan spinners at Southampton.

Having won three of their four previous games (one was washed off) in the tournament so far, India had elected to bat. They were looking solid at 122 for two by the 25th over. But the spinners wrecked havoc in the middle overs, as Virat Kohli’s (67 off 63) dismissal reversed the momentum completely.

Number five MS Dhoni could manage only 28 off 52; and had it not been for Kedar Jadhav’s half-century in the death overs, India wouldn’t have even managed 224 in 50 overs. It was their lowest total in the tournament so far.

In fact, Dhoni’s strike rate of 53.84 was the slowest by a batsman with 25-plus runs in an innings in the tournament till then.

The bowlers eventually came to the team’s rescue, led by Mohammad Shami’s hattrick in the final overs. It was a close shave indeed.

India v West Indies, 2017

 

“What was the need for “taking this deep”? A chase which would have been over in 40 overs even considering the slow pitch, has turned out to be this debacle,” said one of the fans at the end of the fourth ODI of the bilateral series, played in the Caribbean

The Indian blowers once again excelled, to restrict the opponents to just 189 from 50 overs. It was a reasonable target on a slow pitch; India even had it under control by the time Ajinkya Rahane (61) was dismissed, needing below 80 runs in 19 overs.

But it was not Dhoni’s day at the other end. He kept toiling for what would be the slowest half-century by an Indian batsman in 16 years. His 114-ball 54 left the tail needing 14 runs off the last over, by the time he was dismissed.

India eventually lost the game by 11 runs, a bizarre result all things taken into account.

India v South Africa, 2015

“For me, the 31(30) was especially bad. That was the match in which I stopped being a Dhoni fan. Rohit Sharma’s spectacular 150(133) went in vain that day,” said a cricket enthusiast Badri Narayan.

On a hot and sweaty day in Kanpur, India’s chase of 304 was powered by one of Rohit’s classic ODI knocks. He left with the team needing 35 off 23, but another heartbreak was on the cards.

At one point, Dhoni was batting at just 10 off 17 deliveries. “It is almost sad to see dhoni batting now. His time is up. Can’t time a single ball. Created pressure on Rohit, Raina,” read one of the comments during Cricinfo’s live commentary.

India lost the game by four runs, and at the post-match presentation, skipper Dhoni remarked that the Indian bowlers could have done better.

India v Australia, 2008

 

These were early days in Dhoni’s captaincy, and a few years before his famous partnership with Gautam Gambhir in the final of the 2011 WC final.

This time, the duo were on the pitch together in the team’s pursuit of 318 in Sydney. Gambhir’s determined century (113 off 119) had raised hopes of an Indian fightback. But he failed to garner enough support from his partner who scored 36 off 66 balls.

Both of them returned to the pavilion by the 40th over. And India lost the game by 18 runs despite a late show of grit by the lower order batsmen Robin Uthappa, Irfan Pathan and Harbhajan Singh.