T20 World Cup final: Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah step up in India’s time of need as title drought ends


“He is probably saving himself for the final. We understand his class. We understand his importance in big games.”

It was almost as if Rohit Sharma knew what was coming.

The India captain was speaking after team-mate Virat Kohli fell for nine in the T20 World Cup semi-final against England in Guyana on Thursday, a dismissal that left one of the best batters on the planet with an alarmingly poor record in this year’s event.

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In what his final T20 international before retiring from the format, Virat Kohli returned to form with 76 from 59 balls and helped India win the T20 World Cup

Kohli’s stats at that that point read 75 runs in seven innings at an average below 11. His best score was 37.

He had only made double figures twice. There were two ducks in there, one of them of the golden variety.

But fast forward two days and a man who previously couldn’t buy a run had racked up 76 of them in the final versus South Africa in Barbados, notching more in one knock than he had mustered in his previous seven combined, underlining his “importance in big games”.

India's Virat Kohli (Associated Press)
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Kohli was averaging less than 11 in the T20 World Cup but then played a decisive knock in the final

Rohit has got most things spot on as India captain and this was another example.

“No one was in doubt about Virat, he’s been on top of his game for the last 15 years,” said Sharma after a seven-run win clinched his side a second T20 World Cup title and a first slice of silverware in a global ICC event since the 2013 Champions Trophy.

India’s victory was largely crafted by Kohli, with the batter rallying his team from the parlous position of 34-3 in the fifth over as he parked the frenetic way he had batted throughout the tournament and reverted to the classy and composed method that had brought him over 4,000 runs in the format beforehand.

“We have wanted to lift a trophy for a long time and the occasion made me put my head down, respect the situation and play the innings the team needed from me,” Virat said afterwards, while accepting the Player of the Match award and announcing his immediate retirement from T20 internationals.

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Kohli says it is time for India’s new generation to take the T20I team forward

But it was a victory largely executed by Jasprit Bumrah. If not for him, Kohli’s efforts may have come in a losing cause. If not for him, a South African – perhaps Heinrich Klaasen – may have bagged the Player of the Match accolade instead, shortly before going on to join his Proteas team-mates in lifting a World Cup for the first time.

Like Kohli, Bumrah underlined his importance in big games.

Bumrah brilliant as India fight back with the ball

After 15 overs of the chase, South Africa were favourites.

Klaasen had just donged India spinner Axar Patel for four boundaries in total, and three in a row, in a 24-run over. The ask was now a run-a-ball 30 from 30 with Klaasen on the cusp of fifty and fellow hard-hitter David Miller at the crease with him.

Surely this was where the Proteas broke their World Cup duck? No, it wasn’t, and it mainly wasn’t because of Bumrah, although his fellow death bowlers Arshdeep Singh and Hardik Pandya deserve kudos, too, as does fielder Suryakumar Yadav with his catch for the ages.

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In the last over of the T20 World Cup final, India’s Suryakumar Yadav produced a stunning, juggling catch on the boundary to dismiss South Africa’s David Miller

Bumrah conceded only four runs in the 16th over but bettered that in the 18th when he shipped just the two runs and bowled Marco Jansen through the gate.

The India quick finished with figures of 2-18 from four overs, having castled South Africa opener Reeza Hendricks with a delicious out-swinger in the second over of the innings.

That eminently doable 30 off 30 was now 20 of 12. The game was slipping away from the Proteas and Arshdeep and Hardik, plus Suryakumar’s astonishing athleticism in the deep, ensured they could not retrieve the situation.

Jasprit Bumrah (Getty Images)
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Jasprit Bumrah conceded only six runs combined across the 16th and 18th overs of South Africa’s run chase in Barbados

Score summary – South Africa vs India

India 176-7 from 20 overs: Virat Kohli (76 off 59), Axar Patel (47 off 31), Shivam Dube (27 off 16); Keshav Maharaj (2-23), Anrich Nortje (2-26)

South Africa 169-8 from 20 overs: Heinrich Klaasen (52 off 27), Quinton de Kock (39 off 31), Tristan Stubbs (31 off 21); Hardik Pandya (3-20), Jasprit Bumrah (2-18), Arshdeep Singh (2-20)

Heartbreak for South Africa again, albeit this time in a final as opposed to a semi-final – a stage they had never previously gone beyond after seven harrowing losses in the last four.

Aiden Markram’s side – who may take some time to get over this result – had the proverbial one hand on the trophy with some of their big players making telling contributions.

Klaasen’s 23-ball fifty. Quinton de Kock’s 39 off 31 balls at the top of the order. Keshav Maharaj’s wickets of Rohit and Rishabh Pant in the second over of India’s innings. Anrich Nortje’s tidy 2-26.

It’s just that India’s big players made the more telling contributions. Kohli the top-scorer, Bumrah the most economical bowler.

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India skipper Rohit Sharma hit eight sixes during his swashbuckling 92 from 41 balls against Australia at the T20 World Cup

Rohit bows out after transforming India

But arguably the most telling contribution of all has been made by Rohit, who, like Kohli, has also revealed his T20I career is now done.

Perhaps not telling in the final, when he scored just nine before picking out Klaasen at square leg off Maharaj, although his decision to hand Bumrah the 16th and 18th overs later on as opposed to the seamer’s customary 17th and 19th may have been a masterstroke.

No, Rohit’s most telling contribution is transforming this team from the tentative one we saw plod along in the 2022 T20 World Cup semi-final against England in Adelaide to the front-foot outfit they now are. Sharma having embodied that with his 92 off 41 balls against Australia in this year’s Super 8s.

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Watch India being crowned T20 World Cup champions after beating South Africa in Bridgetown

The irony is that it took Kohli shunning that approach and “putting his head down”, as he described it, to help India up to a winning score against South Africa. But that is possibly what he should always have done. Been the glue among the gung-ho gang.

Rohit and Kohli will now bow out from this format having underlined their importance in big games.

Opposition batters might secretly be wishing Bumrah would do the same but, at the tender age of 30, there appears zero chance of that. There will be plenty more big T20 games for him.

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