Glorious T20I swansong, but Virat Kohli isn’t done yet, not by a long way | Crickit
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Glorious T20I swansong, but Virat Kohli isn’t done yet, not by a long way

Jun 30, 2024 09:46 AM IST

It was poignant, touching, fitting. Fortunately for India, Virat Kohli isn’t done yet – not in ODIs, definitely not in Tests.

If one is inclined towards believing so, this was preordained, written in the stars. That Virat Kohli would ride away into the T20I sunset not just with the World Cup winner’s medal around his neck, but also with the Player of the Final honours. That, given his sense of theatre and drama and stage and occasion, he would overturn a middling to poor tournament with the most impactful of performances when it mattered, that he would bow out in a blaze of glory, not without a whimper.

India's Virat Kohli celebrates with the trophy after winning the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2024 final cricket match between India and South Africa at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown(AFP)
India's Virat Kohli celebrates with the trophy after winning the ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup 2024 final cricket match between India and South Africa at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown(AFP)

The romantics will be tempted to label his 76 in Saturday’s final against South Africa as one for the ages though truth to tell, this was an innings of three parts. The first was the trademark flourish, conspicuous by its absence in the last seven matches – fours off each of his first two deliveries, 14 off his first five. From there, as three wickets fell in no time, Kohli regressed from maestro to journeyman, going 35 deliveries with a boundary, needing 48 deliveries to reach his first half-century of the T20 World Cup. 50 in 48, on a good batting deck. What are you on to, Virat?

I’ll show you what, he retorted. With a stunning six, out of the blue, against Kagiso Rabada. It was all Kohli, wrist and bottom hand coming together in the most seamless of fashions, the ball taken from outside off and deposited over wide long-on with a disdain that sits quite nicely on him. A collective gasp, then a roof-threatening explosion of noise and energy. Oh, this Kohli, he can bat, can’t he?

From 50 off 48 to 76 off 58 was an electric, electrifying journey – 26 in 10 balls, two fours, as many sixes. Rabada felt the sting, then the towering Marco Jansen, also the first target of Kohli’s ire, in the first over of the final when he breezed to three fours. 76 off 58 wasn’t looking so shabby when Kohli was caught in the deep going for another big hit in the penultimate over. The dominate-rebuild-dominate essay done, Kohli walked away to a standing ovation from his colleagues in the dugout and in the changing room. Little did anyone know at the time that it was the last time he would turn out in a Twenty20 International.

Rohit Sharma, India’s inspirational captain, the composed leader who ran a magnificent campaign with aplomb and elan, was to reveal later that Kohli had shown his cards to the team before the tournament. He had announced his intention to move on from India’s 20-over landscape at the end of this campaign, no matter how it panned out. Rohit himself, almost reluctantly because he didn’t want to take the sheen off the magnificent seven-run heist or off Kohli’s brilliance and his exit, conceded that he had also played his last international T20 game. Two legends gone in one fell swoop, but on an unprecedented high; the former captain had masterminded the posting of a competitive total, his successor was on top of his strategic game, pulling this string here, that string there as he spurred the mother of all comebacks.

With 30 needed off 30, six wickets in the shed and Heinrich Klaasen hitting sixes as if they were going out of fashion, this was South Africa’s game to lose. Instead, India won it through the brilliance of Jasprit Bumrah – that man again – and the persistence and perseverance of Arshdeep Singh and Rohit’s deputy, the beleaguered Hardik Pandya. They all knew they would never share a 20-over international dressing room again with their two sensational leaders. As if slighted at the prospect of not sending them off with the perfect going-away gift, and aided massively by the coolest catch under pressure one will ever see by Suryakumar Yadav to evict David Miller and kill off the game off the first ball of the final over, they came snarling and growling and charging at the Proteas, suddenly limpid and hesitant with victory an easier proposition than gut-wrenching defeat.

In the end, Rohit sprawled, belly-down, and slapped the turf repeatedly in elation and relief; Kohli let out a triumphant cry that could have been heard back in West Delhi and South Mumbai, in the hills of Kashmir and by the Arabian Sea, along which the southern metropolis of Thiruvananthapuram is situated. They were celebrating the scaling of the T20 equivalent of Mt Everest in their own unique ways, Kohli the batter repaying with interest the returns Rohit had produced under him, especially at the 50-over World Cup in England in 2019. It was poignant, touching, fitting. Fortunately for India, they aren’t done yet – not in ODIs, definitely not in Tests.

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