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Triple Farewell: As Kohli, Rohit & Jadeja Retire, Indian Cricket Enters New Era

The big boys are exiting. A new dawn awaits Indian cricket.

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Indian cricket fans were still celebrating the triumph on Saturday night when they received the first jolt.

Virat Kohli announced his retirement from T20 Internationals at the post-match presentation in a chat with Harsha Bhogle. It took some time to process that Kohli meant that he had not just played his last T20 World Cup but also his final T20I. A couple of hours a little past midnight, India captain Rohit Sharma waited for a journalist to ask him before announcing rather casually that he had also retired from T20Is. India was still celebrating but the news was slowly sinking in.

Right through Sunday the whole country and the fans across the globe were slowly processing the news that the pair of Kohli and Sharma had retired from T20 Internationals. The head coach Rahul Dravid had already announced his intention to step aside before the tournament. So the triumph was slowly becoming a moment to cry tears of joy and sorrow.

Just when you thought that the dust has settled and you can continue to enjoy the highlights of the title triumph, came the news that Ravindra Jadeja too had decided to step away from T20Is.
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Eras to Look Back At

This was a decisive moment in India’s cricket because three men who had played together for a better part of 15 years were stepping away from one format all at once.

Eras can never be compared but we have had situations when champions have left the stage together:

  • Greg Chappell, Dennis Lillee, Rod Marsh in 1983-84

  • Sir Viv Richards, Gordon Greenidge in 1991

  • Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis in 2003

  • Shane Warne, Glenn McGrath and Justin Langer in 2007

  • Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble in 2008-09

  • Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman in 2011-12

All the champions mentioned above left from the Tests and in some cases from international cricket at the same time. In the case of the purge in West Indies cricket in 1991, it turned out to be a defining moment in their history and they have not been able to recover from it ever.

But in this case Indian cricket appears to be in a better shape than before at least in T20Is. The decision seems only fair because a few younger players are ready to stake their claims in the shortest format. The younger players anyways wear India jerseys in nondescript bilateral T20I series only to be cast aside for a T20 World Cup because the big boys are ready to return.

The big boys are exiting. A new dawn awaits Indian cricket.

A Prolonged Wait Awaits

Now the younger lot will no longer have to be waiting for their turn because the big boys have exited the stage. The writing was on the wall as Kohli himself mentioned in his post-match chat. ‘Worst kept secret’ is how Kohli described his decision, because he was a debatable pick for this World Cup. This is not what you will hear from his fans or social media fan clubs because his numbers in IPL and T20 cricket are phenomenal. But T20 cricket has changed since the pandemic and has become more dynamic.

The pitches in the T20 World Cup this time were horrible and hence batting became a lottery. But generally batting has become very dynamic with the batters finding newer ways to score runs, especially in the powerplay. Kohli’s only place in a T20I XI would have been at the top of the order. This recent World Cup showed you that he is finding it difficult to wear a cape and bat in a way alien to his nature. He had meagre returns in the World Cup because he was unable to buy into the new attack mode.

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Bowlers' Magic in the Final

Kohli top-scored in the final but for a brief while you wondered if he had left it a little too late in attacking the South African bowlers. If Jasprit Bumrah, Arshdeep Singh and Hardik Pandya had not produced some late magic, questions would have been asked of Kohli’s approach.

Then there is the skipper Rohit Sharma who was terrific with his intent right through the tournament. He was batting like a man possessed, taking on bowlers at will in the powerplay and putting India on a fast track. But it is very clear that the format is a little too fast for even a street-smart man like Sharma. He had to evolve but the fielding and other associated factors like fitness alongside his advancing age will start telling on him very soon.

The fact that India plays several meaningless bilateral T20 Internationals before and after ICC events even that also would demand his presence as a leader. An interim leader just for bilaterals and a different one for world events would have been counterproductive. So very smartly Sharma also decided to exit the T20I stage on a high.

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India Need Batters Who Can Bowl

The other big factor is that India desperately needs batters who can bowl and ease the load off the specialist bowlers in T20Is. We saw what happened with South Africa in the final, a long tail meant that they could never really recover from the fall of Heinrich Klaasen, and it was a struggle for them.

India was faced with a similar situation in the previous two T20 World Cups with a long tail. This time India learnt from those mistakes and made amendments to their XI. Now there are several claimants who can provide more than one skill in a T20I XI which would be the need of the hour in the build-up to the 2026 World Cup.

The growth and emergence of Axar Patel as an effective all-rounder during the World Cup meant that there was a reduced role for the original Rockstar Ravindra Jadeja. He was a rare package in Indian cricket when he emerged for the first time under Shane Warne in Rajasthan Royals colours.

The big boys are exiting. A new dawn awaits Indian cricket.
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But over the years several injuries and surgeries later, Jadeja’s effectiveness as a T20I bowler has been reduced. Patel played a bigger role in the tournament with the ball and bat, except in the final. The other big plus has been the resurgence of Hardik Pandya which meant that Jadeja as an all-rounder had a lesser role than before. As a fielder Jadeja continued to be a gun fielder, but he did drop a sitter in one of the games. His batting too was not required much.

So, it was obvious that Jadeja read the writing on the wall. Again, several left-arm spinning all-rounders are staking their claims via the IPL. Those claimants will finally breathe easy because they can finally see an opening. Why just a left-hand spinning all-rounder, even some seam bowling and off-spinning all-rounders will be keen to throw their hat in the ring.
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It's The Right Time

The trio of Kohli, Sharma and Jadeja have followed the dictum of jump before being pushed or leave when they ask why rather than why not. When India was dumped out of the 2022 T20 World Cup, there were a lot of angry voices asking for a generational change in the format. When the change is happening this time post a historic title triumph there is a sense of why now?
The big boys are exiting. A new dawn awaits Indian cricket.

But the cricketers know it better than anyone else when it is time to go. Future stars will emerge shortly because Indian cricketers, especially those in the T20I squad, will be on the road more than anyone else in the coming 12 months.

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So you will be surprised by the number of new faces who will emerge.In any case, Kohli, Sharma and Jadeja will be the key to India winning a Test series in Australia for a third successive time at the end of the year. The trio will want to end their Test careers or cap it off with the World Test Championship (WTC) title next year. They may also want to have one more crack at the Champions Trophy next year or the ODI World Cup.

Now they will be fresher, hungrier and sharper in the two other formats that India will hopefully pick them in.

So continue to celebrate the triumph which ended the title drought because it is not everyday that you feel like a world champion!

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