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Last Dance: Possibly final time Rohit Sharma & Virat Kohli will play for India in T20 format

If Saturday indeed is their 'Last Dance' in T20Is, the void will be difficult to fill not just in terms of quality but also, and perhaps more so, emotionally.
Last Updated : 28 June 2024, 09:32 IST

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New Delhi: This Saturday afternoon in Barbados, no Indian fan would want Rohit Sharma to drag his jaded body towards the dug-out trying to hide a tear welling up at the corner of his eye.

No Indian fan would want to revisit Virat Kohli's blank stare towards the podium where the coveted ODI World Cup trophy rested exactly seven months and 10 days back.

What they would surely want is to see the two greats do a memorable tango in probably their 'Last Dance' in the game's shortest format, at least in India colours.

If one understands the drift of Indian cricket's ecosystem, whether it is the BCCI mandarins or the national selectors, they want the troika of Kohli, Rohit and also Ravindra Jadeja to go out on a high from the format.

This is because next month's Zimbabwe series would certainly usher in a new dawn keeping in mind the 2026 T20 World Cup in India.

To prepare for any global trophy, the core needs to be finalised two years in advance and in 2026, a 39-year-old Rohit or a nearly 38-year-old Kohli or even Jadeja are unlikely to fit in.

At this point, with the focus firmly on the final, no one wants to use the sensitive 'R' word as far as T20Is are concerned but it is believed that if India can beat South Africa in Barbados on Saturday, both skipper Rohit and Kohli would know that in this format, they have nothing more left to achieve.

There may or may not be a formal announcement as they would continue be a part of IPL, where they are still two of the biggest brands apart from Mahendra Singh Dhoni and the non-cricketer -- Shah Rukh Khan.

For Kohli, it will be the completion a of cycle with all three ICC white-ball trophies (2011 ODI World Cup, 2013 Champions Trophy) in his cabinet.

Just like Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakkara decided immediately after beating India in that 2014 T20 World Cup final that they would both quit the shortest format, one doesn't know if the two greats would do something similar.

Kohli and Rohit, the two generational talents with 8334 T20I runs, six centuries, 69 fifties and 119 catches between them are the last bridge between the old and new and they both deserve to be in the same frame with that trophy in hand.

Both are World Cup winners but those two victories belonged to the Dhonis, Sachin Tendulkars, and Yuvraj Singhs way more. This trophy would rightfully belong to them.

Champions have egos -- some have pretty pronounced ones, while few others keep them concealed.

One could gauge the pain in Kohli's eyes after he got out against England and if anyone wants to count the 'King' out of the final, do it at your own peril.

For Rohit, if one wants to sum up November 19, 2023 for him, the apt coinage would be Sudhir Mishra's 1996 cult classic "Is Raat Ki Subaah Nahi".

Even if he asserts that he has moved on, the wounds have healed, he would still be itching for a closure.

One can say with a degree of certainty that had India won the 2023 ODI World Cup, Rohit would not have been desperate to play this edition of the T20 World Cup.

He wants some kind of closure as far as white ball global triumph is concerned. A T20 World Cup triumph would give him that.

His popularity is organic. Dhoni was "Mahi bhai" to his juniors, a man they revered. Kohli earned respect with his humongous on-field achievements. But Rohit gets love, unadulterated -- from peers as well as juniors.

No wonder Ravichandran Ashwin chokes while narrating how the skipper asked one of the team physios to accompany the spinner to Chennai after his mother had a health scare and that too in the middle of a Test match.

They have seen the crests and troughs of Indian cricket together for more than a decade.

They had arrived when Nokia 3310 was in vogue and in their twilight zone, they are witness to change in nature of fandom-- every third android phone owner is either a 'Viratian' or a 'Rohitian'.

Thankfully for Rohit and Kohli, there is nothing more to prove.

If Saturday indeed is their 'Last Dance' in T20Is, the void will be difficult to fill not just in terms of quality but also, and perhaps more so, emotionally.

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Published 28 June 2024, 09:32 IST

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