Was Dhoni run out off a 'free-hit' delivery in India-NZ semifinal?

Fans believe that Dhoni (50-72 balls) could have well played his last ODI match

dhoni-run-out-ap Dhoni reacts as he leaves the field after being dismissed during the World Cup semifinal between India and New Zealand at Old Trafford in Manchester | AP

Even as Twitter was flooded with tributes to veteran M.S. Dhoni, who, in all probability, played the last World Cup game—if not the last match—of his career, at Old Trafford in Manchester, several fans have tweeted that the ball before his dismissal was a no-ball.

With India needing 31 runs off the final two overs, Dhoni hit Ferguson for a six off the first ball. The next ball was a dot ball, as Dhoni could only hit the full ball back to the bowler. Before the next ball was bowled, the broadcasters showed the field setting, with India needing 25 off 10 balls.

Several users pointed out there were six fielders outside the ring at that time, when the ICC rules allow only five between overs 41 and 50. If the rule is violated, the ball is signalled a no-ball and the next delivery is a free-hit. There is another question, though—from which ball exactly did the Kiwis have six fielders outside the ring.

Though a batsman can be run out off a 'free-hit' delivery, the users claimed that in such a case Dhoni might have tried something different and would possibly not have been run out.

The former skipper was brilliantly run out by Martin Guptill on 50, off the third delivery of the 49th over, thus ending India's hopes of an improbable win.

Though it's all a matter of hindsight and 'what ifs', whether there were indeed six fielders outside the ring and the umpires failed to notice it, has stirred up a debate on social media.

Chasing 240 to win and clinch a place in the final, India were eventually bowled out for 221 in the last over. But a 116-run stand between Ravindra Jadeja and Dhoni, after a top-order collapse, raised hopes of an unlikely victory.

Though Dhoni is yet to confirm any news about his impending retirement, speculations were rife that he might call it a day after the World Cup. India's exit from the tournament has added fuel to the fire.

From Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Rahul Gandhi to actor Randeep Hooda, personalities took to Twitter to appreciate Team India and the Dhoni-Jadeja duo for putting up a fight.

It was also an emotional moment for die-hard Dhoni fans to see their icon walking off after being dismissed, possibly for the last time in the ODIs.

Several Twitter users also pointed out that Dhoni may well have begun and ended his ODI career with run-outs—he was run-out for nought against Bangladesh in his debut on December 23, 2004 in Chittagong.

When asked whether Dhoni has said anything about his retirement, with the squad for the West Indies tour to be announced soon, skipper Kohli, at the post-match press conference, said,"No he hasn't told us anything as of now."