It took 13 years of heartbreak, nine ICC white-ball tournaments, three finals and a South African choke of epic magnitude for India to finally claim the tag of world champions again.

India’s captain Rohit Sharma, second right, and teammates celebrate after their win against South Africa in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup final cricket match at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, Saturday. (PTI)

At the end of a rollercoaster match, skipper Rohit Shamra was in tears, Hardik Pandya was in tears and so were Quinton de Kock and David Miller. For the former two, the match seemed lost until it wasn’t and for the latter two it seemed like a win until it wasn’t. Who writes these scripts?

South Africa didn’t make it easy while chasing India’s 176/7 but in the end, Rohit Sharma’s team – seeking to atone for their ODI World Cup final heartbreak last November – used every bit of their experience to squeeze out a 7-run win that had a nation heave a collective sigh of relief. They weren’t crying, all of India was.

With the victory in sight at Bridgetown, Barbados, on Saturday, the Proteas found out, on the biggest stage, that their choking days are not done. They needed 30 runs off 30 balls with five wickets in hand but somehow contrived to lose a game that will match, in magnitude, their disaster in the 1999 ODI World Cup semi-final.

India elected to bat first on a wicket that was a little on the drier side. They got off to a flyer with 15 runs coming off the first over from Marco Jansen — it was the most expensive first over in a T20 World Cup final. Keshav Maharaj’s second over saw the first two deliveries being hit for fours but he claimed the wickets of Rohit Sharma (9) and Rishabh Pant off the fourth and sixth balls to peg India back.

A little later, in the fifth over, Kagiso Rabada sent back Suryakumar Yadav (3) to reduce India to 34/3. At that point, India and Virat Kohli decided to quietly move into accumulation mode.

Axar Patel, promoted up the order to keep the left-right combination going, and Kohli quietly advanced the score while not taking too many risks. However, every once in a while, the left-hander would through caution to the winds and get a maximum.

Those big hits kept India in the mix and by the end of the 10th over, India reached 75/3. It was time for the batters to get going again but Kohli struggled with his timing. He did the right thing by steadying the ship after India lost the early wickets but after his four in the fourth over, it took him 37 balls to find his next boundary.

Was it too long a break? Could India have done better? Perhaps, they might have. But at that moment, they left it to Kohli’s experience. They trusted his judgement of the wicket and they waited.

Eventually, the runs came. Axar got 47 off 31 balls, Shivam Dube got 27 off 16 but Kohli’s 76 off 59 was the base upon which India built their innings. South Africa needed 177 to win, as India posted the highest score in a T20 World Cup final.

In reply, South Africa needed a steady start to put the nerves to rest. They didn’t get that as Reeza Hendricks was bowled by a Jasprit Bumrah beauty and Aiden Markram nicked one to the keeper off Arshdeep Singh. With SA on 12/2, India felt buoyant.

But that is when Quinton de Kock (39 off 31) and Tristan Stubbs (31 off 21) put together a stand of 58 off 38 balls. It pushed India back and moved the game towards the Proteas.

However, an ill-advised sweep shot saw Axar sent Stubbs back. Heinrich Klassen took over with an exhibition of hitting against spin. SA lost Quinton de Kock but with the right-hander finding top gear, Kuldeep Yadav was slammed for 45 runs in his four overs and Axar was carted for 49 — including 24 runs off his final over.

That over reduced the equation to 30 runs needed off 30 balls. A run-a-ball. Klaasen and Miller in the middle, both batting well. It should have been a walk in the park but with South Africa, as we have witnessed in their history and in this tournament, it never is.

Hardik Pandya ended Klaasen’s knock, 52 off 27, with a wide slower ball in a game-changing moment. In the 18th over, Bumrah conceded just two runs and sent Marco Jansen (2) back too.

Arshdeep followed it up with just a four-run over as 30 off 30 became 16 off 6. There was a final piece of drama left though as Suryakumar Yadav took a most sensational catch on the boundary line off the first ball of Pandya’s final over.

It was a full toss and Miller laid into it — hitting it straight down the ground only to see Surya run around from wide long-off, catch the ball, then lob it back in before catching it again. It took a split second but it was a split second that won India a World Cup.

After that moment, there was no coming back for South Africa. India were the champions, the deserved champions and they won it, nay they snatched the trophy, from the jaws of defeat. This isn’t a cliche, it is the truth.