Finally, India encountered a superior opponent here, a team with deeper gears and a desire to run until the end. With the contrasting playing conditions in the two halves, Rohit Sharma’s team stayed in the fight for as long as possible, but the World Cup kept moving away, the craft and winning habits of Australia starting to intrude like a firm hand on the elbow as the game ticked down to the final rites.
When Glenn Maxwell fired the final arrow through his World Cup bubble, Rohit looked defeated. He silently shook hands with his teammates, then repeated the practice with his vanquishers for the night before making a hurried and lonely trek up the stairs to the dressing room while the rest of his teammates behind him were still concluding the exercise and loitering around the boundary line.
Just the day before, the Indian skipper had mentioned how thrilling the sport was and how he had witnessed a wide range of emotions in the dressing room. After twenty-four hours, the mood in the camp could be captured with a single broad blue brushstroke. Mohammed Siraj sobbed and was consoled by a depressed Jasprit Bumrah. KL Rahul simply fell on his knees. Virat Kohli buried his face in his cap and knocked over the bails at one end, unsure what to do. Ravindra Jadeja followed suit at the other.
As a result, there will be exit music. India’s great campaign will make the highlights and statistics pages, but it will not result in another star on the jersey or a spot in the World Cup winners’ annals. The night will have been difficult, and the morning will be colored with disappointment. But, after the pain and anguish, there will be time for reflection. Because the wheels of Indian cricket will continue to turn quickly. Such is the nature of the international cricketing calendar that an Indian side will face an Australian squad in the opener of a five-match T20I series in Visakhapatnam in three nights, kicking off the path to another World Cup in the United States and the Caribbean in seven months.
Rohit, Kohli, Rahul, and Mohammed Shami have not played an international T20 match since the heartbreak that preceded this heartbreak in Adelaide in 2022. Jadeja and Mohammed Siraj had already played their last T20Is. None of them have abandoned the format, but Indian sides in the shortest format appear to have taken a different but undefined path under Hardik Pandya’s guidance. He is, of course, injured right now. Suryakumar Yadav was selected Hardik’s deputy in the West Indies, while Bumrah led Ireland in a brief series. Then there was the team led by Ruturaj Gaikwad that won gold in the Asian Games in Hangzhou.
On the strength of their batting performances in this World Cup, could Rohit or Kohli wait another seven months for another shot at an ICC trophy that has proven agonizingly elusive over the last decade? Will their failure to cross the finish line in Ahmedabad have taken that decision away from them? In such situation, the present Test Championship and the Champions Trophy in 2025 may be the only realistic opportunities for a final redemptive finish, and even the latter may be precarious.
It’s difficult to imagine either Rohit or Kohli playing in the 2027 ODI World Cup in South Africa. Rohit will turn 40, while Kohli will be 39. Shami and Jadeja will be 38 and 37 years old, respectively. In reality, India selected the third oldest (by average age) playing XI in a World Cup final at 31 years and 174 days. As a result, a succession plan appears to be on the horizon.
The first rumblings of India’s dominant campaign till the final here were heard in Australia last year, but the Rahul Dravid-Rohit Sharma combo hadn’t had enough time to get the entire team on board with the type of white-ball cricket they wanted India to play. After an additional year, India appears to be approaching the demands of the current white-ball game. Neither the captain nor the coach can be certain of a long-term project, with Dravid declaring in the post-game press conference in Ahmedabad that he has not considered extending his national team coaching stint, which expires at the end of this defeat.
All of this appears to be probing at the scab while the incision is still open. However, the fast pace of current Indian cricket does not allow for time to pause, take a breath, and ponder. The wheels will spin rapidly and round and round.