T20 WC: Rohit, Kohli’s final bow makes it a fairytale ending at Barbados

India end their ICC trophy jinx in a campaign full of too many sub-plots

Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli after winning the ICC Men's T20 World Cup title (photo: ICC)
Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli after winning the ICC Men's T20 World Cup title (photo: ICC)

Gautam Bhattacharyya

Like any major sporting achievement, India ending their drought of the ICC Men's T20 World Cup title after 13 years in Kensington Oval, Barbados had been the fruit of a strong team ethos on Saturday, 30 June. Be it Jasprit Bumrah underlining his dominance as the Player of the Tournament, Rishabh Pant’s memorable comeback from a life-threatening injury – they all played their part in the Men in Blue lifting a major ICC title after the 2013 ICC Champions Trophy.

However, the most enduring sub-plot of their campaign has to be the legacy that the Rohit Sharma-Virat Kohli duo left in India’s journey in T20 cricket over nearly the past two decades. From the scenario even five months back when the recalling of the pair for the shortest format was being looked upon as a case of one step forward, two steps back – the two masters of the game eventually signed off in a moment of glory and amid a whirlpool of emotions.

‘’This was my last (T20 game) as well. No better time to say goodbye to this format,’’ announced Rohit in the official press conference, soon after a sombre Kohli confirmed their plans in a post-match chat with the broadcasters. ‘’It’s time to step aside for the next generation,’’ said the former captain after he ended his nightmarish run in this tournament as an opener in the final – anchoring the innings with a resilient half-century in a game which India could ill afford to lose.

For the record, India became the third country to win the World T20 crown twice after England and the West Indies – at a yawning 17-year-gap between the first one in Johannesburg under M.S. Dhoni and this one in the Caribbean. It’s a testimony to Rohit’s longevity as a performer as he has played in all nine of the World Cups in this format despite not being the most natural athlete, with life coming full circle for him from a precocious youngster to a commendable leader of men.

The irony behind the whole saga of giving these two veterans a stage for the final bow in this format would be hard to miss though. Soon after the Men in Blue were clobbered by England in the 2022 semi-finals in Adelaide, a tournament where Kohli was the highest scorer for India, the BCCI decided to draw up a new blueprint for the 2024 edition where there would be no room for these two men in their mid-30s. The consensus was that allrounder Hardik Pandya would be the new leader and the team would be built around youngsters and the much-hyped fearless brand of cricket.

However, in the aftermath of the heartbreak in the 50-overs World Cup at home in 2023 and uncertainty over Pandya’s return after a freak injury, the BCCI (read: Jay Shah) had a dialogue with the Big Two on their T20 future. Both wanted to give it a go at what would be certainly their last World T20 and after last night, Rohit and Kohli would be leaving the stage vindicated and a tad relieved.

Now in the twilight of their careers, Rohit (37) and Kohli (35) still have unfinished business in the other formats – though the next 50-overs World Cup is good three years away and there will be many ifs and buts along the way. For now, they leave the stage with more than 8000 runs between themselves in T20s alone and a collage of wonderful memories.

Meanwhile, 29 June 2024 will be etched in the minds of Indian fan as another signpost after the likes of 25 June 1983, 24 September 2007 and 2 April 2011.

Brief scores: India 176/7 in 20 overs (Virat Kohli 76, Axar Patel 47; Keshav Maharaj 2/23) beat South Africa 169/8 in 20 overs (Heinrich Klaasen 52; Jasprit Bumrah 2/18, Arshdeep Singh 2/20) by 7 runs.

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