The gloom in the India camp would only have worsened after Pakistan squeezed through to the Asia Cup final against Sri Lanka.
Shoulders drooped and heads bowed, India players had walked away after the defeat against Pakistan on Sunday. Only Kohli had the presence of mind to applaud the crowd that had supported the side generously.
The team did not train before the Sri Lanka and Pakistan games and the defeats served as a harsh reminder. On Tuesday, it was only an optional session, but every member turned up at the academy ground ahead of the match against Afghanistan on Wednesday.
After a game of football, every player worked on his expertise in the nets. Kohli observed them from a distance. He then asked fielding coach, Trevor Penney, to give him throw-downs, but only briefly. He had other important issues to address. A quick discussion with Varun Aaron, who had a nightmarish game against Bangladesh, was for starters.
That done, he pulled up a chair and sat outside the team’s tent. Dinesh Karthik sat next to him. Kohli spoke animatedly in an intense discussion for close to an hour. Ravindra Jadeja and Shikhar Dhawan came, stood and went.
Karthik’s cheeky shots against Sri Lanka and Pakistan cost the side crucial runs. And his missed stumpings in the two matches drilled the nails in India’s Asia Cup coffin. That Karthik needs to get his game in order was clear. While Kohli put his point across, he gave Karthik opportunities to explain.
Though India’s chances of progressing have gone, Kohli has continued to impress -- the under-pressure century against Bangladesh and the thoughtful and energetic captaincy.
Kohli’s celebrations have toned down. Frustrations are less pronounced. Attempts to keep the team together, be it after an on-field collision or after a missed run out, have been evident.
The shuffling of the field and bowling has remained in sync. It was the basics that the team faltered in - fielding, death bowling and holding ground in the middle of an innings. The captain can only explain and keep the morale high. “He’s been learning a lot from Dhoni bhai as you can see in his captaincy. He’s been very proactive and did a fantastic job against Pakistan,” Ambati Rayudu explained.
India, though out, would hope to make a statement in their final game against Afghanistan. It will be another test of Kohli’s leadership.