Every time we woke up, it was the worst feeling in the world: Kohli on India’s World Cup exit
A dejected Virat Kohli after India were eliminated in the semi-final of the World Cup 2019 last month. (AFP Image)

India are closing in on a month since their heart-breaking loss to New Zealand in the semi-final of the World Cup, but judging by Virat Kohli‘s words on how the team felt after exiting the tournament, the scars of defeat may have taken more than a while to heal.

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India, the league stage toppers in the World Cup with 15 points, chasing 240, in the first semi-final at Old Trafford in Manchester, endured a top-order collapse, which saw them getting reduced to 5 for 3. And even though Ravindra Jadeja and MS Dhoni’s fighting 136-run stand got them close, New Zealand, secured an 18-run win, signalling the end of Kohli and India’s World Cup campaign in England.

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As tough as the pill of defeat was to swallow for the fans, Kohli revealed it was equally tough for the team and players knowing their four-year-long dream was shattered being so close to realising it. It was the first time Kohli touched upon India’s World Cup elimination since the post-match press conference in Manchester on July 10.

“The first few days after we exited the World Cup were quite difficult,” Kohli said. “Till the time the tournament got over, every time we woke up it was the worst feeling in the morning. Then through the day you do things and sort of get on with your life. We are professionals. We move ahead. Every team has to move on.

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“So we are quite okay with what happened in the World Cup. Yesterday the fielding session and the little bit of time we spent on the field was really good. Everyone was excited, looking forward to just playing, just being on the field again. I think that’s the best thing you can do as a team, just get on the park as soon as possible.”

As India gear up for life post the World Cup, the next target remains the T20 World Cup in Australia next year. The first stop are T20Is against West Indies in Florida, the first of which takes place on Saturday. The tournament will in particular hold significance for youngsters like Navdeep Saini, Deepak and Rahul Chahar and also Rishabh Pant.

“They play in front of 40 to 50,000 people regularly. They score against top players and also get them out. It will not be too intimidating for them and we have a lot of belief in their abilities. They have come here for the T20 experience,” Kohli said.

“We have 25 to 26 games before the T20 World Cup. You need to see what combination you can make through these games depending on the conditions. It is a normal process at this level. There is not a single match that you can take lightly. If you need confidence, you need results as well. It boils down to the players eventually. We will try to pick our best XV through these games,” Kohli said.

The World Cup saw Kohli go without a century although the India captain did register five consecutive half-centuries. Last month, Kohli had stated that with Rohit Sharma going great guns at the top, he was happy playing a different role, one where he held the innings together Here too, Kohli abided by the same belief, admitting he was open to batting according to the situation.

“If the situation demands me to be aggressive, I will be. If it demands to play a certain role so that other players around me can unleash their potential, I will be more than happy to do that. In international cricket, you can’t be one-dimensional. You need to be flexible and have a lot of acceptance in terms of how the situation pans out. That has always been my mindset. If you are too rigid in your approach, you won’t be able to adjust,” he said.

The lack of big names like MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah has resulted in dipping of ticket sales in the US for the series, but Kohli feels with proper exposure, led by ICC’s guidance, growth of cricket in the States can only march onward and upward.

“For now I think it’s all about creating that buzz and just getting people in to watch the games,” Kohli said. “The more we come here and play, obviously the game is going to get more and more buzz around it, people are going to talk about it. You see 15,000-20,000 people going to a place to watch something, obviously it should be important. Hopefully in years to come, people will have more interest. Local people in America as well, not just the Asian community or the West Indian community but the whole community in general will have more interest in the sport.

“I think T20 cricket is something that can be understood and accepted in the American culture because of the length of the game and it’s quite entertaining as well. So I think for the sport to become global in many ways, a lot of interest here will go a long way in achieving that for the sport. Hopefully in years to come, we’ll have more tournaments and more series here where people just come in and start understanding the sport and just having fun like they do in any other sporting event here.”