End of an era as India faces T20 future without Kohli, Rohit

Indian fans in New Delhi wave flags after India's victory at the 2024 ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup (Arun SANKAR)
Indian fans in New Delhi wave flags after India's victory at the 2024 ICC men's Twenty20 World Cup (Arun SANKAR)

Indian cricket on Sunday savoured World Cup victory while also coming to terms with the T20 retirements of modern-day greats, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli.

Both Rohit and Kohli called time on their T20 careers for India after the cricketing powerhouse edged South Africa to clinch its second T20 World Cup title in Barbados on Saturday.

The two batting stalwarts have carried the dreams of a cricket-crazy nation for over 15 years and ended the shortest format at their peak.

Kohli's match-winning 76 earned him the player of the final award, and Rohit led the team from the front with three half-centuries in the tournament, in which India remained unbeaten.

"It has been so amazing playing with them for so many years. We all will miss them but... this is the best farewell we can give them," Hardik Pandya, Rohit's deputy in the tournament, said after the win.

Roger Binny, who was part of the 1983 World Cup-winning team and is now president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), termed the two stalwarts' exit a "great loss".

He said it would be tough to replace them immediately, despite India's good pool of T20 players in the Indian Premier League.

Kohli, 35, won his second World Cup crown after the 2011 ODI win under M.S. Dhoni, who also led India to title victory in T20's showpiece event in 2007 at the inaugural edition.

A rookie Rohit, now 37, was part of the first T20 triumph when India beat arch-rivals Pakistan in the final in Johannesburg.

The two stalwarts, who have 45,961 runs between them across three international formats, will stay on in Test and ODI cricket.

- Dravid swansong -

The title clash with South Africa was also the last match for outgoing coach Rahul Dravid, a former captain who left the international stage as a player without a World Cup win.

Dravid, 51, said he will miss Rohit as a person more than just as a captain and player who amassed runs and records.

Former India batsman Gautam Gambhir is widely reported to succeed Dravid as coach of the high-profile Indian team.

Gambhir, who remained a key part of India's 2011 ODI World Cup win at home, coached IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders to their third title this year.

"There was speculation that some senior players will be sent off after Gambhir comes in (as coach), but both Rohit and Kohli ended on a high note," former Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar said on his YouTube channel.

"It was a good decision by both. Before anybody sacks them, or creates a doubt about their selection, a big player should decide their own fate."

The T20 triumph has been redemption for Rohit, who was stripped of his IPL captaincy from Mumbai Indians this year.

Pandya was handed the leadership role, much to the disappointment of many fans.

Kohli proved his big-match credentials, with his 59-ball 76 in the final clash -- after he managed just 75 runs in seven innings during the competition until the finale.

All-rounder Pandya will be Rohit's likely replacement as leader in the T20 format, but batsman Suryakumar Yadav also remains in the fray for the role.

Rohit succeeded Kohli as white-ball skipper in 2021 and became all-format captain months later with BCCI and fans getting uneasy over India's global title drought since their Champions Trophy win in 2013.

But Pandya said there was "a lot of time" before the next T20 World Cup in 2026 for India to prepare.

"I am very happy for both Rohit and Virat, two giants and legends of Indian cricket, (they) thoroughly deserved this," he said.