Virat Kohli ends T20 career on a high as India wins World Cup

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (AP) — Right up to the Twenty20 World Cup final, there were question marks about whether India should persist with playing Virat Kohli.

One of the greatest cricketers India has ever produced just wasn't scoring.

He'd tallied 75 runs in seven games, including two ducks. India won every game but Kohli was reduced to a concerning afterthought, saved by the middle order and bowlers.

The humbling scores followed a spectacular Indian Premier League for Kohli, who set or extended tournament records in scoring 741 runs at an average of nearly 62.

Captain and fellow opener Rohit Sharma, despite their low-scoring partnerships at the World Cup, insisted throughout that he and Kohli were the first names on the team list.

His faith was repaid in the final against South Africa on Saturday, when Kohli led India's batting with 76 from 59 balls in a competitive total of 176-7. The bowlers brilliantly defended the total to win a thriller by seven runs and make India a world champion for the first time in 13 years.

“None of us doubted him,” Sharma said of Kohli, shortly before the skipper announced his own retirement from T20 internationals later Saturday.

“We know his quality. He has been at the top of his game for 15 years now. Big players will step up in big occasions and he played a crucial knock today. It was a team effort to get to that total but we knew we needed someone to bat time and he did that perfectly, using all his experience.”

After being named man of the match, Kohli said it was his last T20 international.

“One day you feel like you can't get a run, but one day things just click,” he said.

“I am so proud to get the runs for the team on the day it mattered most. The occasion prompted that change for me, I felt like it was now or never. We have wanted to lift a trophy for a long time. The occasion made me put my head down, respect the situation and play the innings that the team needed from me.”

Class prevails when it comes to Kohli. He's produced so often when it's mattered.

In the 2014 final in Dhaka, he led all scorers with 77 off 58, though India lost to Sri Lanka.

In the 2016 semifinal in Mumbai, he hit an unbeaten 89 off 47 in the loss to West Indies.

He finished as the T20 captain at the 2021 World Cup, and hit 50 off 40 in the 2022 semifinal loss to England in Adelaide.

After six T20 World Cups, he's the highest scorer in tournament history, just ahead of Sharma, but he's decided to finish his 14-year T20 career on a high than stay to the next World Cup in 2026 co-hosted by India and Sri Lanka. He'd be 37 by then.

“It is time for the new generation to come through for India,” Kohli said. "We have some amazing players coming through and they have to take this team forwards now.

“I wasn't feeling myself before today. I wasn't confident. So I am very grateful and humble right now. It has been difficult, so there are a lot of emotions. It hasn't quite sunk in for me yet. It's an amazing day, I am so thankful.”


AP cricket: