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End of Virat Kohli’s 12-year war against T20 World Cup trophy

Virat's quest to win the T20 World Cup began on September 19, 2012.
Last Updated : 30 June 2024, 12:39 IST

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When the final ball of the T20 World Cup 2024 was bowled, for Virat Kohli it was the end of a 12-year struggle to win the only International trophy that had been eluding him. India’s victory was a fairy-tale ending to a war where the 'King' kept winning many battles, but never the war itself.

For over a decade, despite pouring in his blood, sweat and tears in his effort to put his hands on the T20 World Cup trophy, Virat's dream got shattered time and again. Virat's quest to win the T20 World Cup began on September 19, 2012 in a match against Afghanistan. By then, he was regarded as the next big thing in Indian cricket, the successor to Sachin Tendulkar.

With a beautiful 50 off 39 balls, he was awarded man of the match for setting up India for the win. His contributions were vital for India. In the only match that Virat didn’t contribute, India lost to Australia, and were unable to overcome South Africa with a significant enough run-rate to qualify for the semi-finals. He ended the campaign as India’s highest run-scorer, according to ESPNCricinfo.

By the 2014 edition of the tournament, Virat was well and truly the leader of India’s batting line-up. India had started to heavily rely on his runs, and he kept delivering most of the times. From his steady match-winning knock against Pakistan in India’s first match, all the way to his 77 off 58 in the finals against Sri Lanka, Kohli stood tall every time India called upon him to save them. And yet, India faltered at the finish line with Malinga’s men marching to victory as Virat watched another attempt go down the drain. He was awarded the player of the tournament for scoring 319 runs in six innings (including 4 fifties), the most in the tournament, according to Cricbuzz.

With the 2016 T20 World Cup hosted by India, the 'King' looked determined to make the trophy his. He didn’t start the tournament very well, as India lost to New Zealand. But he picked up pace with a fifty against Pakistan in the next match, which led India to victory against their arch rivals once again.

Most Indian fans would remember the chase-master’s knock against Australia in a virtual quarter final for the hosts. Chasing 161, India were 49-3 near the end of the 8th over. 112 off 72 balls needed. And Kohli showed the world why he is known as the 'GOAT'. Scoring 82 off 51 balls, he almost single-handedly won the match for India. His innings that day is regarded as one of the greatest innings of cricket.

In the next match, the semi-final against West Indies, Kohli again stood-up to the occasion with 89 off 47. At the half-way stage, it looked like it was India’s game. But it wasn’t. Lendl Simmons led the West Indies charge to victory.

At one point India’s situation was such, captain Dhoni called upon Kohli to save them with the ball too. And he delivered even then, picking a wicket in his very first over. But even then, it wasn’t enough and Kohli helplessly watched Darryl Sammy and his men pour cold water over India’s hopes of winning the tournament. Once again, Kohli was India’s highest run-getter, and the second highest in the tournament as he was awarded player of the tournament.

Five years later, Kohli had the chance to lead India to the T20 summit himself. But in Captain Kohli’s first ICC tournament, India put out their statistically worst performance so far, with their only wins coming against Afghanistan and Scotland. Virat got a fifty against Pakistan only, as India were knocked-out in the group stage.

The impact of being India’s no. 1 player for years had started to get to Kohli by the 2022 World Cup. Although he wasn’t his best self in the tournament, he was still better than many in the game.

Then came India’s opener vs Pakistan in Melbourne that witnessed perhaps Virat’s greatest innings. Chasing 160, India were in deep trouble with the score reading 31/4 after 6.1 overs. The top order had collapsed, just like it had during the 2021 World Cup match against Pakistan.

The Pakistani bowlers kept breathing fire, trying to ensure that India were never ahead in the game. But Kohli slowly built the innings back up with support from Hardik Pandya. With 48 needed of 18, it looked an impossible task. However, Kohli changed the scenario, smashing Pakistan premier bowlers all over the place. 18.4 will be etched in history as one of the greatest moments in Indian cricket’s history as Kohli smashed Haris Rauf over his head for a six with a cross bat, a shot that looks impossible to replicate.

Kohli had decided India would not lose that day, and played like he meant that, snatching victory from the jaws of defeat with his 82 off 53.

He carried on that form to help India to another T20 World Cup semi-final, even-surpassing Mahela Jayawardene as the highest run-getter in T20 World Cups.

But heartbreak awaited him against England, as half-century in the first innings wasn’t enough to stop the British juggernaut, led by Jos Butler and Alex Hales.

Again, Kohli was India’s high scorer in the tournament. Individual accolades from the tournaments had piled up for him, but what he desperately craved for was still out of his reach.

And so came 2024. This was his 6th attempt at winning the elusive trophy; the same number of attempts it took for the great Sachin Tendulkar to win the ODI World Cup.

Kohli was coming into the tournament after a fantastic individual IPL series where he won the Orange Cap. And with the 2023 World Cup final loss not forgotten, many expected Kohli to be in his usual World Cup form, perhaps with even more vigor. But it wasn’t so.

While India were clinical in every match they played, led by Rohit Sharma while batting and Jasprit Bumrah while bowling, Kohli just couldn’t get going. Coming into the final, his average was just around 10.

However, no one was concerned about his form, at least not his captain, who backed him to score big in the final.

The final arrived, and India walked out to bat first. Helped by some poor opening bowls by Marco Jansen, Kohli got off the mark well. And then he witnessed the same story he had throughout the years, with the top order collapsing around him.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man. Kohli, backing up his captain’s words, showed up with his usual, calculative self in the final, playing a measured innings to get to his fifty before unleashing himself on the bowlers. With 76 off 59 balls, he led India to a good 176/7.

At the 15-over mark, with Klassen on top of his game, having just dispatched Axar Patel for 22, Kohli might have had it in his mind that it was all happening again, and he will have to helplessly watch once more as they lose the final.

But his teammates said, ‘no sir, that is not happening today’. Led by Bumrah, the bowling unit pulled off an impossible looking squeeze to win the 2024 T20 World Cup.

12 years ago, Virat Kohli started his hunt for the T20 World Cup trophy with a man of the match performance. 12 years later, he ended his T20I career with a man of the match performance in the final.

But more importantly, he completes his long, hard-fought pursuit, filled with heartbreaks and a lot of criticism throughout the years, to finally lift the one international trophy that had been missing in his cabinet.

Perhaps, it was fitting that after so many years of carrying India’s hopes in the tournament on his back, Kohli was carried by his teammates to the trophy during his final attempt to win it.

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Published 30 June 2024, 12:39 IST

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