T20 World Cup 2024: Redemption

India’s triumphant T20 World Cup campaign was a journey of redemption after years of pain for players and fans alike

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For those who enjoy a redemption arc, the 2024 T20 World Cup final was the sweetest catharsis. When India’s captain Rohit Sharma finally lifted an ICC trophy as captain – a moment that had thus far eluded him in a storied career – it was about much more than that moment. It was about the pain, the mistakes, the missed opportunities and the graft that came before it.

On Saturday, India clinched an instant classic against a dangerous South African outfit, with just seven runs separating the two teams. It was a match replete with drama, entirely befitting the occasion; for either team, victory would have been particularly poignant. South Africa, infamously, had never previously made an ICC World Cup final, and in the past decade or so, Indian sides have regularly dominated tournament play, only to stumble at the final hurdle.

For Sharma, ICC tournaments have almost perennially been a case of close, but no cigar. Sharma featured in India’s victorious campaign at the inaugural ICC World T20, but in the nearly two decades that have since passed, ICC silverware has been an almost mythical pursuit. India T20 World Cup

Sharma was at the helm during India’s defeats in the 2022 T20 World Cup semi-finals, the 2023 World Test Championship final, and the 2023 ODI World Cup final. During this period, he led the strongest squads in the history of Indian cricket, and with the trophy cupboard still bare, the pressure on Sharma leading into this tournament was acute, even for an Indian captain.

But Sharma responded in kind, and he now leaves behind a stunning legacy; when he announced his retirement from the format after the game, Sharma finished on top in every sense, not only as a World Cup winning captain, but as the leading T20I run-scorer, six-hitter, and century-maker of all time.

Rohit Sharma lifts T20 Trphy 2024
Rohit Sharma (Source: X / BoiesX45)

All-rounder Hardik Pandya’s journey to the title was altogether different, but even more satisfying. While Sharma never really fell out of public favour, Pandya has endured a year to forget, after he became the IPL’s pantomime villain merely for displacing Sharma as the Mumbai Indians captain.

For months, an unprecedented chorus of boos and jeers had followed Pandya wherever he went on home soil, an astonishing reminder of the vitriol the Indian public is perhaps uniquely capable of towards their own.

Pandya’s face was raw with emotion after he bowled the last ball in a match-winning spell; as tears rolled down his face, it was clear the toll the year had taken on him. His defiant post-match interview capped off a redemption story for the ages.

Before this tournament, Arshdeep Singh’s most memorable performance in Indian colours was arguably his litany of no-balls against Sri Lanka in a T20 match in Pune last year, which cost India the game and earned a particularly stern rebuke from then-captain Pandya. That’s not to say Singh hasn’t ever performed; but he was yet to capture the imagination in the way he did this tournament, which he finished as the joint-highest wicket taker, his 17 wickets more than any bowler in any previous edition.

Singh bowled the most important over of the final – the penultimate over – with a set David Miller at the crease and only 20 runs left in the bank. It was a veritable lesson in trusting the process and executing under pressure. Singh conceded just four runs, and ensured the memories of Pune are long forgotten.

And then there’s Virat Kohli, who, like Sharma, announced his retirement from T20 internationals after the final. Kohli had an abysmal tournament by anyone’s standards, not least his own. If it were anyone else, he would have been dropped ahead of the final, but there is no dropping Kohli.

Kohli notched up a man-of-the-match innings of 76 off 59, holding together the Indian innings from a precarious 34/3. He assessed the conditions to perfection, biding his time for a final assault that lifted India from a par total to a match-winning total; a fine margin.

Like Pandya, Kohli has faced recent hostility from Indian fans, often for no reason, such as for his prioritisation of family, mental and physical health. Kohli’s form this tournament did him no favours, and as he acknowledged after the final, it was an “open secret” that these would be his last days in the format, whatever the outcome. But he finished the tournament in a typical Kohli fashion: rising up when others failed.

Together with Kohli and Sharma, all-time great Rahul Dravid also departs from the team, bowing out from his coaching tenure having finally achieved the only thing missing in his glittering coaching and playing CV – an elusive ICC World Cup trophy.

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Ritam Mitra
Ritam Mitra
Ritam is an award-winning journalist and lawyer based in Sydney. Ritam writes on domestic and global politics, human rights and social justice, and sport.

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