A harbinger of change

The end of T20 World Cup 2021 will see a new captain, a new coach, new ideas, and the rise of new stars
The 2021 edition of the T20 World Cup, in keeping with its proclivity to act as a harbinger of change, will be Mr Kohli’s last as India’s T20 captain (AFP) PREMIUM
The 2021 edition of the T20 World Cup, in keeping with its proclivity to act as a harbinger of change, will be Mr Kohli’s last as India’s T20 captain (AFP)
Updated on Oct 22, 2021 07:23 PM IST
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ByHT Editorial

In 2007, the inaugural Twenty20 (T20) World Cup proved to be a game-changer. For world cricket, and, in a deeper and wider sense, for Indian cricket. A young, long-haired captain who engineered the improbable, edgy victory, gave the country a new phenomenon — the rise to the top of cricketers who did not come with big city privileges. Mahendra Singh Dhoni, over the next decade, heralded a new era for Indian cricket, even as the World Cup firmly established the newest version of the game, which had till then stumbled along with a whiff of irrelevance. It led directly to the wild and unprecedented success of the Indian Premier League (IPL) launched the very next year. IPL shifted the financial might of cricket decisively towards India, and set the template for T20 leagues that are now ubiquitous across nations. T20 was here to stay, and over the next decade, would threaten to eclipse all other formats, at least in terms of spectator interest.

Then, the 2016 T20 World Cup heralded another major shift for Indian cricket. It marked the end of the Dhoni era, and the beginning of Virat Kohli’s high-decibel, high-octane leadership at a time when India became nearly unbeatable in all formats; and even infused new life into Tests with some breathtaking victories. Yet the five years since then were also marked by the team’s curious failure to win a major ICC trophy. The 2021 edition of the T20 World Cup, in keeping with its proclivity to act as a harbinger of change, will be Mr Kohli’s last as India’s T20 captain. It will also be coach Ravi Shastri’s last assignment, bringing an end to the long and fruitful partnership between them. The tournament begins in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) today, though India are technically the hosts, and the biggest draw comes this weekend when India and Pakistan square off in a match that has already become a political hot potato – a reminder that the sport cannot remain impervious to the subcontinent’s geopolitical tensions.

It’s often hard, but important, to focus on the field of play. And more so now because, by the time this tournament is done, so much will be different. A new coach, a new T20 captain, new ideas, and the inevitable rise of new stars.The World Cup will also offer Mr Kohli a chance to change the one blip on his record as captain — a big ICC trophy, and the privilege of being a champion of the world.

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Friday, December 03, 2021