T20 World Cup final: Time for Men in Blue to do it for captain Rohit, Virat

In-form leader appeals for calm as they look to end trophy jinx against the Proteas

Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah during the World T20 campaign in West Indies (photo: ICC)
Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah during the World T20 campaign in West Indies (photo: ICC)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

The anxiety and anticipation that a World Cup final brings will certainly grip India and South Africa ahead of the World T20 final on Saturday – albeit in different shades. For the Men in Blue, it will be to shed the baggage of being so-year-yet-so-far on so many occasions in recent years, while a new generation of Proteas will want to do away with the chokers’ tag once and for all in Barbados.   

When it comes to sheer depth of experience and quality, Rohit Sharma’s men will go in as favourites – but it’s only eight months back that they learnt the hard way that there could be many a slip between the lip and the cup. More so in this format – where one blazing knock, or a two-over spell, can change the complexion of the game. 

There is a hashtag trending in social media: #DoitforDravid as Saturday’s final will be Rahul Dravid’s last game at the helm after a mixed bag of two-and-a-half years. Putting individuals over team causes may not often be the best practice, but few will mind if another one is coined by the fans: #DoitforRohitKohli. It’s no secret that these two elder statesmen of Indian cricket have been on borrowed time in this format and this World Cup will be certainly Rohit’s last as a leader of the T20 side. 

Life will certainly be coming a full circle for the 37-year-old captain if he can lift the trophy as it was 17 years back that Rohit’s journey started as a callow youth in international cricket - being a part of M.S. Dhoni’s upstarts in the inaugural edition of 2007 World T20 in South Africa. This edition has seen Rohit bat like a man possessed as he is the third highest scorer in the tournament with 248 runs from seven matches – while the back-to-back fifties against supreme Australia and England attacks, respectively, have been simply out of this planet. 

The ease with which Indian spinners crafted an emphatic 68-run victory over champions England in the semi-finals in helpful conditions in Guyana made their humiliation in Adelaide in 2022 look like a bad dream. Come Saturday, the anxiousness to end the trophy drought will be understandable, and this is where Rohit wants his men to exercise caution.   

‘’We do understand the occasion (in the final), but for us, it’s important to keep calm and composed,’’ Rohit said after the semis, adding: ‘’That helps us make good decisions. We need to make good decisions through the 40 overs. In this game too, we were steady and calm and didn’t panic too much. That has been the key for us. Yes, we do understand the occasion is important, but we need to play good cricket as well.’’ 

If there is a grain of similarity between their campaign in the US and West Indies and the one in India last year, it’s about the unbeaten run – though it did come with its uncertain phases in between this time. The unpredictable wicket in New York had tested them even against smaller teams while it needed an implosive Pakistan to eventually close that game by six runs. 

The journey, however, has only galvanised the team better despite a few sore points like Kohli’s form as an opener, Shivam Dube failing to repose the faith in him, and Ravindra Jadeja failing to make an impact with either bat or ball so far. However, these have been offset by the international comeback of Rishabh Pant behind the stumps and as the No.3 batter, allrounder Hardik Pandya finding his mojo again while Jasprit Bumrah showed what India actually missed in the 2022 edition.  

There is again a rain forecast for the final as well as it’s reserve day on Sunday. India’s spinners, meanwhile, have vindicated the logic behind them by picking four of them as against England, they did most of the damage with Kuldeep Yadav (3/19), Axar Patel (3/23) picking up six wickets and Jadeja (0/16) being his mingy self.

‘’They are gun spinners,’’ the India skipper complimented, before adding: ‘’When conditions are like that in front of them, it’s very difficult to play some shots. Yes, the pressure is on them to execute those balls but they were very calm and knew what to bowl. We had a chat after the first innings: the plan was to hit the stumps as much as possible and keep the stumps in play and that’s what they did.’’

Catch the match

Final: India vs South Africa

Venue: Bridgetown, Barbados (8 pm IST)

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