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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

End of an Era: Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Retire from T20Is

It was a fitting farewell to two of the most celebrated players in T20I cricket. Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma retired from the shortest format of the game after inspiring India to a T20 World Cup triumph in Barbados on Saturday, June 29. Rohit, the captain, led from the front throughout the campaign in the USA and the West Indies, while Virat Kohli, the ex-captain, delivered when it mattered the most for the team.

Right after the final ball was bowled at the Kensington Oval in Barbados on Saturday, Rohit Sharma sank to the ground. He fell flat on the outfield and soaked it all in. India had won an ICC title after 11 years and it was Rohit who helped end a much-talked-about and frustrating drought. It was also a huge load off his back as one of the most successful captains in white-ball cricket sang a redemption song for himself, months after the heartbreak of November 19, 2023.

Time heals everything, they say. It did for Rohit Sharma. The India captain was an emotional wreck seven months ago. On Saturday, his joy knew no bounds. Rohit teared up. He hugged his partner-in-crime, Virat Kohli. He announced his retirement from the format with a grin on his face. Rarely has anyone called it quits with so much fulfilment. He timed another one, beautifully.

On the other hand, Virat Kohli was a couple of South African big hits away from becoming a punching bag. But, he finished his T20I career as a national hero. The Barbados triumph was a perfect reward for all those lone warrior efforts in the T20 World Cups in the past. Yes, as Rohit Sharma said, Kohli reserved his best for the last.

Rohit Sharma was part of the T20 World Cup in 2007. He won the Champions Trophy in 2013. Virat Kohli won the ODI World Cup in 2011. He was also part of the Champions Trophy-winning side in England. Yet, the collective heartbreaks that Rohit and Kohli endured in the recent past needed a painkiller and it came in the form of a T20 World Cup trophy on Saturday in Barbados.

The nation has been celebrating Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli. Some of their critics also admitted on Saturday that India might not have been able to win the crown in tough conditions in the USA and the West Indies without the experience of their two senior pros.

But, Rohit and Kohli were not welcome with open arms back to the T20I team when the senior selection committee picked them for a T20I series in January against a visiting Afghanistan side. Rohit and Kohli did not play a single T20I for 13 months and India seemed to have moved away from the two veterans in the format. Kohli’s T20I game, it was said, was outdated. Rohit’s disastrous 2022 T20 World Cup campaign was a blot on his otherwise impressive T20I career.

India had taken a forward-looking approach after Hardik Pandya was appointed captain in T20Is. The Yashasvi Jaiswals and the Shubman Gills were given opportunities in 2023 when Rohit and Kohli were away from the shortest format.

Rohit’s ruthless approach at the top in the ODI World Cup found him fewer naysayers. But the guns were trained on Kohli and speculation about his T20I future was rife ahead of the T20 World Cup. Kohli dismissed them all with an Orange Cap-winning performance in IPL 2024.

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