It may be three weeks later, but the sting of India's World Cup semi-final exit has been a tough pill to swallow for India captain Virat Kohli. Speaking in Florida on the eve of his team's first T20I against West Indies, Kohli said the initial days after his side's loss to New Zealand in Manchester were difficult to get over, but they are now focused on early preparation for the next major world event, the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia.
"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.
"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 part of planning for the T20 World Cup next year, fresher faces are emerging in the India squad, including Rishabh Pant. With MS Dhoni absent from this tour, Kohli identified Pant as a player who now has an opportunity to gain experience and push to cement his place building up to the T20 World Cup.
"It's a great opportunity for someone like Rishabh Pant to really play a lot of international cricket, show his credentials, really unleash his potential at this stage," Kohli said. "We know how much ability he has and we all want him to become a consistent performer for the Indian cricket team. MS's experience is always going to be a very crucial factor but having said that some of these younger guys have a great opportunity ahead of them and they should just look forward to it."
Only six players - Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Ravindra Jadeja and Bhuvneshwar Kumar - remain from the India squad that came to Florida three years ago for their first T20I on American soil, a thrilling one-run loss to West Indies. Rain in Lauderhill limited India to only an outfield session on Thursday, and no training at all on Friday. But Kohli is hoping his batsmen can prosper at what has been a high-scoring venue in recent years.
"I think the covers look the same," Kohli joked about what he remembers from his previous visit. "We haven't seen the pitch, we haven't seen anything apart from the covers on the pitch. When we play tomorrow, we can assess how the pitch has come along. Even last time we played, it was pretty good, high-scoring, and we all had a lot of fun playing here, and this time is going to be no different."
The absence of the likes of Dhoni and Jasprit Bumrah, who has been rested from this tour, has made a marginal dent in ticket sales, with neither match sold out yet whereas the first match from 2016 sold out in rapid time. But Kohli hopes repeat visits to the USA might help spur greater interest not just locally, in one of the ICC's target markets for expansion, but also globally.
"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."