March 24, 2015. World Cup semi-final. Eden Park, Auckland. New Zealand vs South Africa.
The Proteas are boosted by fifties from Faf du Plessis and skipper AB de Villiers.
In a rain-adjusted target, Brendon McCullum puts on a show but South Africa fight back.
Catches are dropped, run-outs are missed.
After 85.5 overs, Grant Elliott launches Dale Steyn for a six as New Zealand make it to their first World Cup final. 45000 people are delirious with joy.
At the other end, South Africa’s hopes are cruelly dashed. Eden Park sees tears from Steyn, Morne Morkel, Faf du Plessis and even AB de Villiers.
July 9,10, 2019. World Cup semi-final. Old Trafford, Manchester.
In a rain-affected game again, a one-dayer becomes a two-day international. Kane Williamson sparkles with a fifty as New Zealand reach 239/8.
India are blown away by Matt Henry and Trent Boult and at 92/6, Virat Kohli’s side had an uphill task.
Ravindra Jadeja and MS Dhoni keep the fight alive for India. Jadeja smashes 50 but with 32 needed off 14 balls, he falls to Boult.
In the next over bowled by Lockie Ferguson, Dhoni smashes a six that takes fans back to the 2011 World Cup final shot against Sri Lanka’s Thisara Perera. 25 needed off 10. Then, the moment.
Dhoni attempts a second but is caught short by a rocket throw from Martin Guptill at deep square leg. Dhoni departs for 50 and 1.3 billion Indians’ dreams are extinguished as India are eliminated with the 18-run loss.
A common link
The two semi-finals share a common link. Apart from New Zealand and the World Cup semi-final, these two games played a massive part in the playing careers of MS Dhoni and AB de Villiers.
The South Africa skipper chose to skip matches, was in and out of the side and was plagued by injury.
Suddenly in 2018, with South Africa preparing for the 2019 World Cup, he suddenly announced his retirement, citing that ‘he was tired’.
Two years later, in a conversation with Cricbuzz, he revealed the real reason for his retirement and it was the New Zealand semi-final loss. “That really wore me down a touch but I kept playing, I tried to bite the bullet, I tried to be there.
The next 12 months was really tough for me. Maybe I should’ve been more honest about it when I look back and communicated about it,” AB de Villiers said.
If de Villiers could not digest the loss against New Zealand, then the Dhoni conundrum has been a major source of speculation for the last one year. Many have speculated that the semi-final game was Dhoni’s last.
If one applies the de Villiers logic, then this comment by Dhoni is an indicator that he too was scarred mentally.
In a conversation with India Today in January, Dhoni expressed his hurt when he said, “In my first game, I was run-out and this game again I was run-out. I keep telling myself why didn’t I dive.
Those two inches I still keep telling myself I should have dived.”
Not played actively
De Villiers and Dhoni have been scarred by the losses to New Zealand.
The Proteas skipper played 16 Tests, 41 ODIs, 17 T20Is until his retirement in 2018.
He was predominantly a Twenty20 freelancer and continues to be even now.
However, Dhoni has not played any competitive cricket for the last one year.
With the coronavirus pandemic now stalling cricket and with the ICC World T20 all but postponed in 2020, the chances of his comeback are slim.
There is growing speculation of AB de Villiers’ availability back in the team but that is also looking difficult.
New Zealand are known to punch above their weight in major tournaments. However, in the last five years, they have acquired a reputation of a potential career killer of certain legends.
The current status of de Villiers and Dhoni are proof. If Dhoni retires, then New Zealand’s reputation as legend killers might be cemented.