It was perhaps all in right order that India won only their second ICC Men’s T20 World Cup by the close margin of seven runs in a pulsating contest, stretched to the hilt till the very end.

While it was heartbreak central for the South African cricket team playing their first ICC World Cup final, the manner of the win was redemptive for two men in particular, Rohit Sharma, India’s current captain, and Virat Kohli, the former captain and champion of the final.

It had been not only a long journey but an arduous one for the Indian cricket team to come around to getting their hands around the trophy but perhaps none more so than for the two men in question.

Facing a season of questions after the captain of the five time winning Mumbai Indians team in the IPL was unceremoniously ousted as the leader of team, Rohit Sharma knew that the noose around his neck as the Indian captain was also on a tight leash at almost the same time, with Hardik Pandya even speculated to lead this team to the United States and the Caribbean.

That Rohit saved his seat on the plane as the skipper of the team en route to the Caribbean seemed nothing short of miraculous given the reason Rohit’s predecessor was deposed from the throne.

The crown of thorns did not escape Virat Kohli. His match winning innings – an uncharacteristic knock that began in belligerent fashion but soon and appropriately shifted to a holding and consolidating position as the wickets began to tumble around him – is vindication of what he is to this generation of cricketers.

This, even without boasting of great form through the tournament and under attack from the previous BCCI management for not being able to add to the trophy cabinet which seemed more like an excuse to settle old scores.

Drama and stories of rift between them and those that supported them within the team and within the dressing room gathered ground and for both men. It would seem that some of the dust from the sandstorm would have been well worth the turmoil when that trophy was theirs, with barely 7 runs left in the bank when the game was done!

There were moments as Sharma himself admitted later when it seemed South Africa were well on their way to lifting the trophy they haven’t come close to within sniffing distance of late. Indeed, it was when Heinrich Klaasen was going hammer and tongs that it seemed India’s fate had been sealed.

But it was some spectacular fielding and catching, which India managed to return the favour after the South Africans themselves, Klaasen included, had pulled a few of their own earlier in the match, that saved India the blushes and brought home the trophy for the first time after they won the trophy in the inaugural edition of the tournament in 2007 in South Africa.

South Africa caused early flutters, depleting India by three of their sturdier wickets in no time and keeping India’s batting run rate tame for the better part of half of their batting innings.

It was not until Kohli and his partnership with an unlikely unsung hero in Axar Patel that began to slowly turn the tide in India’s favour, until South Africa perhaps found themselves chasing 15-20 runs more than they would have liked, given the rousing start they had.

Still South Africa maintained a steady course, their fragile tail end batting always looming in a pressure match situation, to the point when Klaasen made it look like shipwrecked sailors lost at sea beginning to sight shore again as was evident from the hopeful faces in the dugout, with the South African team needing 30 runs from 30 balls. It was India’s turn once more to stare down the barrel.

How they lost their way from there, is something they are going to have to go back to and look because under Aiden Markram, this team – the only other unbeaten team in the tournament besides India – survived nail biters, from old foes and new, to the point of being branded “serial killers” on social media. Well, on this occasion, they nearly swallowed a giant competitor and any other team, but India might have well beaten it.

Hardik Pandya’s tight bowling in the end and South Africa’s own panicked lower order batting made the target harder and eventually even it was only when South Africa needed 11 runs from the last three balls, that the Indian’s faces seemed to relax a little more on the field.

The emotions on the faces of the players – the unabashed overflowing of tears, and more so that embrace between Kohli and Sharma told the story, not so much about the trophy addition – though the gap between trophies has been an easy excuse for leadership evaluation – but also, of how much they had to fight for it. And not just against South Africa.

By no stretch of the imagination did South Africa make the job easy, making India earn this final match in the Caribbean – which had once been the venue that had sunk India’s World Cup dreams including that of Sachin Tendulkar’s – but it made the victory that much sweeter.

Kohli might have fought one of the hardest battles of his life on the solitary strength of his bat and he has had a few – such as in another memorable World Cup victory against Pakistan a few years back as Indian fans would recall – and it might be this one he savours the most.

And it wouldn’t just be because he announced what seemed like the natural thing to do – his retirement from Twenty20 and from India’s future Twenty20 World Cup campaigns. It is not hard to see Rohit Sharma growing in ambition riding on this victory.

But it would not be surprising in the same breath if he too decided to turn in his boots in this format as well, particularly given everything that has happened in the IPL, knowing this is the high rarely accorded to players, even less to captains, whose legacy is often only the manner in which they leave.

That Rohit has now tasted success in this format, first as player and as captain, makes it more unique for him. But it was a long wait and India wanted to dial that down, the patience game.

It will take another heroic effort, another clashing of swords perhaps as new captains will want to wrestle for the job no one wants on surface level, and it will take many hearts of steel as was shown by players on both teams to make it championship worthy.

For Kohli, having been through the whole gamut of emotions, from being consistent heir apparent to Tendulkar even as he lifted the batting maestro on his shoulders at the end of the ICC Cricket World Cup in 2011 to being considered the captain with the crown of thorns.

He inherited the role from Mahendra Singh Dhoni who it could be argued did captaincy better than even his ballistic batting or wicketkeeping. He was being repeatedly shown the door but refused to budge. Even with only one foot in, he knew he had a good many more battles left in him, this is a crowning moment, showing how to close the chapter with one’s head held high.

Sharma, the captain of the Indian team, who won the first ICC Twenty20 World Cup with the team but still carried to the Caribbean the pain of being left out of the 2011 World Cup. He has been through a metamorphosis as leader. He also led the metamorphosis of his IPL franchisee’s fortunes to then being pushed ahead to national leadership only to be constantly put under the scanner in his relatively short tenure.

Sharma will want this to be his epitaph, coming through the ring of fire – credit to South Africa for standing their ground as they did and making it count, almost to the end to add more substance to the story– and being crowned once more, this team as leader of a winning World Cup team, rightly so!