WORLD CHAMPIONS

'I wanted this badly': Rohit speaks of desperation after title win

After falling short of crowning glory twice in 2023 (in different formats), Rohit Sharma and India got their hands on the T20 World Cup title
After falling short of crowning glory twice in 2023 (in different formats), Rohit Sharma and India got their hands on the T20 World Cup title ©Getty

All around him, there were men clad in blue and orange running without any general sense of direction, most of them teary-eyed. Rohit Sharma, however, just sank to his knees and collapsed to the ground, before proceeding to slam the turf of this famous stadium in Bridgetown. The joy and relief of the achievement and the desperation that preceded them had all combined and morphed into this expression of release.

Long after that moment, with a glistening T20 World Cup now by his side, the Indian captain still couldn't find the words to describe his mental state at that very instant of joining a select list of only three World Cup-winning captains for India.

"I wanted this badly," he said. "It's very hard to put it in words because that moment... I don't want to say what I was thinking and what was going [on] in my mind, but it was a very emotional moment personally for me.

"I wish I could capture that moment myself but not really, you can't do that but I will always remember that. Yeah, those are the moments you wait for and then you don't plan these things, it just happens because you're so desperate for certain things in life and I was very desperate for this in my life. So happy that we eventually crossed the line this time."

Rohit has experienced both ends of the emotional spectrum in his 17-year career as an India cricketer. He won this particular tournament in its first edition in 2007, but missed out on a chance to become a double World Champion four years after he was left out of the squad for the home World Cup in 2011. He won a Champions Trophy two years later in 2013 but major international silverware continued to elude him and the Indian team since despite many close brushes with destiny along the way.

Under his leadership, India came agonisingly close twice in 2023, losing to Australia each time in the finals of the World Test Championship as well as the home ODI World Cup. All of it added to the desperation that distilled down to Barbados, where he'd enjoy the 'greatest time' of his career.

"This has to be the greatest time, I can say that," Rohit said, trying to place the achievement in context. "It's only because [of] how desperately I wanted to win this. So, all the runs... all the runs that I've scored in all these years, I think it does matter, but I'm not big on stats and all of that.

"I think winning games for India, winning trophies for India, that is what I look forward to all the time. And having this [the trophy] now right beside me probably has to be... I don't know, honestly, I don't know if it's the greatest or what but it is definitely one of the greatest, I can say that."

"Whenever he has the ball in his hand, he tries to create magic," Rohit on Bumrah
"Whenever he has the ball in his hand, he tries to create magic," Rohit on Bumrah ©Getty

On the big day, Rohit had key decisions to take, none more important than at the toss when he opted to bat on what was one of the better pitches of the tournament. While this may have prompted some to consider chasing, Rohit said he was steadfast on wanting to apply scoreboard pressure on the opposition in a high-stakes T20 game, having also done so four times in his five IPL wins as captain.

"I'm a believer of just having runs on the board in big games," he said. "That's how my mind works. It is not necessary that everyone thinks like that in the team. But I have a decision to make and I made it very clear that no matter how the pitch is, whatever it is, we have to try and put runs on the board and then fight it out. You have the talent in your bowling and I have seen what the guys have done with the ball. So, I had that confidence that whatever score we have, we can try and defend it.

"I know the result came in our favour, but even if the result didn't come in our favour, I would have still completely backed the decision of batting first. Although I thought the pitch really played well... throughout the 40 overs the pitch was really good. It didn't grip as such, which we really thought it would after the first half, with the sun beating down so hard, there is no grass on the pitch, it looks a lot drier. But obviously a lot of rolling and water must have gone in there to make it nice and hard. But, yeah, that was the thought and we were very clear with that decision as well, that we want to put runs on the board and try and defend it later."

That India were able to defend 176 runs - a total just about par for the course - was eventually down to the team's bowling brilliance. Even at a seemingly lost cause of having to defend a run-a-ball 30 from the final five overs, India found a way to close out victory with Jasprit Bumrah paving the way with two masterful overs at the death. Hardik Pandya and Arshdeep Singh backed that with equally brilliant overs to squeeze South Africa out of their winning position.

Rohit reserved special praise for Bumrah, who was also adjudged player of the tournament. "I don't know how much I can talk about Bumrah," Rohit said. "Obviously, we've been seeing this with him for such a long time now. Whenever he has ball in his hand, he tends to create magic for us every time. I am very lucky to have players like this in my squad. Players who are playing for me and Team India. Really, really grateful."

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