India’s T20I Icons Bid Farewell: What’s Next for Team India in 2026?

Time for the young guns to take over. (PC:

Two nights have passed since the Indian team ended their 11-year wait for an ICC title with a thrilling seven-run victory over South Africa in the T20 World Cup 2024 final in Barbados. The entire nation continues to celebrate because it took India more than a decade to secure an ICC trophy. For the fans, it was a moment to treasure and remember forever.

However, the final day was bittersweet as Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, and Ravindra Jadeja played their last T20I for India. Just a day after Kohli and Rohit stepped away from T20Is with the World Cup trophy, Jadeja also announced his retirement from the format.

The departure of these stalwarts marks the end of an era in Indian cricket. However, their timing was impeccable, providing the selectors and the new team management ample opportunity to plan for the T20 World Cup 2026, which will be co-hosted by India and Sri Lanka.

As the celebrations gradually die down, India will need to look forward in their quest to continue their dominance of world cricket. The attention now turns to the next T20 World Cup, scheduled for 2026.

Replacing the likes of Rohit, Kohli, and Jadeja and building a strong team for the next T20 event will undoubtedly take time. However, the transition phase begins soon, as a second-string Indian team face Zimbabwe in five T20Is starting July 6.

BCCI President Roger Binny remains optimistic about the future. “There is so much talent in the IPL,” he told PTI. “Many cricketers are coming through, but it will take some time to bridge the gap after the senior players’ departure from T20Is. They have contributed so much. It’s going to take time. We will probably see in the next two to three years the team coming into its own without them.”

Hardik Pandya, rested from the upcoming series, is expected to succeed Rohit as the T20I captain and will monitor the progress of the fringe players during his break. While nothing is official yet, Pandya is the likely choice.

“There is a lot of time for 2026,” said Pandya while speaking to a reporter. “I am very happy for both Rohit and Virat… two giants and legends of Indian cricket thoroughly deserved this. It has been so amazing playing with them for so many years.”

While Pandya’s observation about time is true, building a team cannot be done overnight. It will take a while.

For the two opening slots vacated by Rohit and Kohli, there are plenty of options. The India squad for the Zimbabwe tour includes four openers: Yashasvi Jaiswal, Shubman Gill, Ruturaj Gaikwad, and Abhishek Sharma.

With Jadeja’s retirement, Axar Patel now stands as the leading spin-bowling all-rounder for India. Washington Sundar and Riyan Parag are among the other potential options.

India boast a wealth of talent in all departments. On the batting front, Shreyas Iyer, Tilak Varma, Rinku Singh, and Ishan Kishan are likely contenders, given their impressive performances in the IPL over the past two to three years.

In bowling, besides the regulars, players like Avesh Khan, Mayank Yadav, Mukesh Kumar, T Natarajan, Khaleel Ahmed, Harshit Rana, Vaibhav Arora, Tushar Deshpande, Ravi Bishnoi, Varun Chakravarthy, and Rahul Chahar are in the mix. For the wicket-keeper role, Rishabh Pant, Sanju Samson, KL Rahul, and Dhruv Jurel are notable candidates.

It goes without saying that IPL performances will be considered for the squad selection in 2026.

It is important for the team to have a big pool of players to choose from. The long journey to the World Cup in 2026 starts in Zimbabwe. Throughout this period, players will be selected and dropped, with various trials and testing methods in place. Who will ultimately make the cut and help India defend their title? Only time will tell.