Dhoni, the former captain, brought Indian cricket to new heights ever since he took the baton from Rahul Dravid in 2007.
Once he led the charge, there was no looking back.
2007 World Twenty 20? Check.
2013 Champions Trophy? Check.
No.1 in Test Rankings? (2009) Check.
But it was the night of April 2, 2011, that has remained etched in the memory of every cricket lover in India. It was the same day when Dhoni launched Nuwan Kulasekara for a whacking six over long-on to end India's 28-year-old wait and helped his team lift the coveted ICC World Cup trophy in front of a jam-packed Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai in 2011.
But the times have changed. It's been 8 years since India brought home the cup. Virat Kohli has taken over Dhoni's duties and the 37-year-old isn't having the best of times on the field as the Men in Blue eye their third World Cup trophy in England.
Dhoni received massive criticism and backlash from all quarters for his "snail-paced" batting performances against Afghanistan and West Indies in the World Cup. Multiply it exponentially and that is what Mahi had to go through when he showed an apparent "lack of intent" during the run chase against England, India's only loss till now.
His display with the bat has been in contrast with India's dominance in the event thus far, with all eyes from the cricket fraternity have been glued on one man and one man only. Dhoni.
"Why is he still around?" "Is he playing Test cricket?" "Why can't he rotate strike if he cannot hit?" "His time's up. Dhoni has to retire."
Cricket fans in India have, understandably, put the legend under scanner for his streak of uninspired innings. The wobbly middle-order has only put the onus on him. One would say it was all spoken in a fit of rage and they would actually want Dhoni to continue even after the World Cup.
But the Internet is rife with speculations that the legend's time has indeed come and that Dhoni specifically dropped subtle hints in games against England and Bangladesh by thanking his bat sponsors. He was seen batting with an SG logo bat initially and switched to a BAS willow during the end of his innings. The weight of the bat did not weigh in on those discussions.
However, it was the governing body of cricket, the International Cricket Council (ICC), that oiled Dhoni's retirement fire by throwing an ultimate scare in a form of tribute video on Saturday, hours ahead of India's final group stage game against Sri Lanka.
The timing of the video was especially crucial and one that raised eyebrows and led to further speculations of him hanging up his boots as soon as India plays its last match in England.
Was ICC celebrating Dhoni's illustrious career only for his birthday (July 7)? Or was the governing body gearing up for India's hotly-anticipated semi-finals? Or was it the farewell video for Dhoni nobody had asked for?
🔹 A name that changed the face of Indian cricket— ICC (@ICC) July 6, 2019
🔹 A name inspiring millions across the globe
🔹 A name with an undeniable legacy
MS Dhoni – not just a name! #CWC19 | #TeamIndia pic.twitter.com/cDbBk5ZHkN
There were questions. Lots of them.
But why are you making such videos in the middle of the world cup pic.twitter.com/WcTIZDRST4— Sagar (@sagarcasm) July 6, 2019
please, Please, PLEASE. pic.twitter.com/QbMQcrio0w— Godman Chikna (@Madan_Chikna) July 6, 2019
This post confirmed the retirement of msd after cwc2019😭— Apurv Borkar (@ApurvBorkar) July 6, 2019
I Think Something Will Happen 😭😭— 💙 KARTHIK MSD💙 (@karthik250392) July 6, 2019
Is this happening ? pic.twitter.com/P7di789bpF— Kimjong Annan (@Surende60047239) July 6, 2019
In any case, Kohli (and India) is only a couple of games away from lifting the World Cup on July 14.
Should India upset New Zealand in the semi-finals encounter on July 9, it would be a fitting tribute to win the big finale and bring the cup home and honour the legend with the farewell he truly deserves.