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India's captain Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli with the trophy after Team India won the T20 World Cup 2024 final against South Africa in Barbados on Saturday. Image Credit: ICC - X

India’s Twenty20 World Cup triumph has triggered frenzied celebrations across the world as it ended a 13-year wait for a trophy. However, the retirements of Virat Kohli and skipper Rohit Sharma have left a sour aftertaste among the fans. With coach Rahul Dravid also quitting at the end of the tournament, Indian cricket enters a new era.

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The biggest question is when many international players retire from other formats to play T20 games, why did Rohit and Kohli decide to go the other way? The answer is simple: the Indian Premier League (IPL).

While international players are unable to commit to IPL contracts due to central contracts with their cricket boards, Indian players face no such issues. They can continue to play in the franchise league and also earn substantial national contracts to play for the country in other formats.

Former skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, 42, continues to play for Chennai Super Kings, five years after retiring from international cricket. The financial freedom provided by the IPL has allowed players to relinquish their spots in the Indian team without losing revenue.

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Kohli, skipper Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah have been the backbone of the Indian team over the past few years. Image Credit: Source: BCCI-X

Another reason for Rohit and Kohli’s retirement from T20 Internationals is to manage their workload better. Rohit might want to reduce the strain on his body, but Kohli's decision is baffling since he is younger and fitter, and can continue for another couple of years.

Legacy and future

The surfeit of talent in the IPL may have influenced the decision of the two modern greats of Indian cricket.

“It was going to be the last Twenty20 World Cup for me. This was an open secret. It’s time for the next generation to take over. Some amazing players will take the team forward and keep the flag waving high,” Kohli said after receiving the Player of the Final award.

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His words summed up the thought process of the team management and the Indian board to take the team forward and rebuild it for the 2026 World Cup in India and Sri Lanka.

Kohli retires from the format with 4,188 runs from 125 T20 internationals, with a strike rate of 137. His tally is second only to Rohit’s 4,231 from 159 matches, which include a record five hundreds. Kohli, who topped the batting charts in the previous two World Cups, was unable to live up to expectations and had only 75 from seven innings, before the 35-year-old struck a patient 76 in the final to give India a winning total.

“I am so proud to get the runs for the team the day it mattered most. The occasion prompted that change for me, I felt like it was now-or-never.”

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Indian players celebrate with the trophy after beating South Africa to win the second ICC Twenty20 World Cup trophy. Image Credit: Source: BCCI-X

No better time to say goodbye

Addressing a press conference later, Rohit, who was part of India’s triumphant 2007 squad, also announced his retirement from T20 Internationals, starting and ending his Twenty20 career with a World Cup.

“This was my last (T20I) game as well,” the 37-year-old said. “No better time to say goodbye to this format. I’ve loved every moment of this. I started my India career playing this format. This is what I wanted, I wanted to win the cup. I was very desperate for this title in my life. Happy that we eventually crossed the line,” the skipper said after several near-misses with the World Cup.

India, after an unbeaten 11-match streak, faltered in the final against Australia in the 50-over World Cup at home last year after another impressive run in the 2022 Twenty20 World Cup in Australia, before they were thrashed by England in the semi-finals.

Looking ahead

However, the Men in Blue stayed unbeaten in this World Cup to end their title drought. India last won an international trophy in 2013 when they defeated hosts England in the Champions Trophy final.

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All-rounder Hardik Pandya has the skills, capability and the team strength to carry the Indian flag high in the absence of Kohli and Rohit Sharma. Image Credit: Source: BCCI-X

While Kohli struggled in this World Cup, his opening partner Rohit was in top form, scoring 248 runs, including three half-centuries.

What next for Team India? Who will fill the big shoes of Rohit and Kohli?

Actually, India's immense bench strength may have forced the retirement of these two greats. Yashasvi Jaiswal, Ruturaj Gaikwad and Shubman Gill have been opening the innings for India across all formats, and all-rounder Hardik Pandya has shown that he has a wise head on his shoulders.The Indian vice-captain, who led Gujarat Titans to the IPL title in their maiden season and finished runners up the following season, seems to be the logical choice to lead India in the T20 format. Pandya can rely on Suryakumar Yadav and Rishabh Pant in batting, while Jasprit Bumrah spearheads the bowling unit.

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Indian players giving coach Rahul Dravid a warm send-off after the final. Image Credit: Source: BCCI-X

Change of guard

The talk of transition have been making the rounds ever since former Indian opener Gautam Gambhir was tipped as the new coach. Now that the two greats have cleared the way, the rebuilding can begin straightaway.

Speaking to the reporters after the final, Dravid thanked the team for the T20 World Cup win. It is a nice feeling to win the prestigious trophy, he added. 

“As a player, I was not lucky enough to win a trophy, but I tried my best whenever I played. I was lucky to get the opportunity to coach the team, I was lucky that this bunch of boys made it possible for me to be able to win this trophy. It’s a great nice feeling but it doesn’t feel like I have done some redemption it was just the job that I was doing. I love working with Rohit and his team, it was a great journey and I really enjoyed it…,” Dravid said.

Rare show of emotions

The Indian coach and former captain was euphoric after lifting the trophy on the podium, a rare show of emotion. Life has come a full circle for “The Wall” who had the misfortune of seeing India lose in the first round in the 2007 World Cup.

Without Rohit and Kohli, it’s the beginning of a new era in Indian cricket. Time for the youngsters to rise up to the challenge.