March 26, 2023

Cricket: The calm after the storm

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LONDON, ENGLAND – MAY 27: Virat Kohli of India poses during an India Portrait Session ahead of ICC Champions Trophy at Grange City on May 27, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Ian Walton-IDI/IDI via Getty Images)

By Hemant Buch From espn Cricketinfo

On June 19, tropical storm Bret lashed Trinidad, downing power lines, flooding several low-lying areas and leaving the island in chaos. Just a day before that, a storm named Pakistan had lashed the Indian cricket team, leaving its hopes of retaining the Champions Trophy in tatters.

A few days later, the storm clouds had dissipated – both over the island of Trinidad as well as over the visiting Indians. A sense of calm settled over the central business district in Port-of-Spain, where the Hyatt Hotel that houses the India and West Indies teams, is located.

It was early morning, and the captain, Virat Kohli, was taking a casual stroll down the esplanade, with no autograph hunters or selfie-clickers in sight. It was a rare moment of peace for the 28-year-old, coming close on the heels of a hectic Champions Trophy campaign, where India lost not just the final, but also their coach.

And while that loss to Pakistan could be explained away, either as India having a bad day, or Pakistan just being Pakistan,the resignation of a high-profile and highly successful coach, was a bit more difficult to fathom.

Various theories had been doing the rounds, well before Anil Kumble had released his statement that seemed to lay the blame for his resignation on the skipper’s doorstep. After his statement, worthies such as Sunil Gavaskar have weighed in on the affair and the opinion seems to be largely in Kumble’s favour.

So, as Kohli settled in for a press conference in the unlikely setting of the Hyatt’s breakfast area, with the Caribbean sea lapping gently a few feet away, he would have been forgiven if the last thing he wanted to talk about was what had led to his team coming across the seven seas to face West Indies without a head coach.

Even his hat, with the New York Yankees logo across its front, suggested that cricket was furthest from his mind on a beautiful June day on this idyllic Caribbean island.

But the huge media contingent, numbering three journalists and a solitary television camera, had no intention of going easy on him. To his credit, when confronted with the question, Kohli did not move on with a cursory “no comment”. He paused, contemplated, and measured his words, making sure he conveyed what he had to without ending up sounding disrespectful to a cricketer many years his senior and one who has, arguably, been India’s greatest Test match-winner.

It has been a tough week for India’s captain, but he remains unbowed, his confidence in his ability, undiminished. He believes he is there for the long haul and is clear that now is the time to stamp his authority and ethos on the team that has clearly moved on from being Dhoni’s team to being Kohli’s.

The gentle breeze, the lazily swaying coconut palms, the serene Caribbean sea and a struggling opposition are the perfect setting for Kohli to begin the process of erasing recent memories – of the loss to Pakistan and of the short-lived reign of one of India’s most successful coaches.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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