Virat Kohli was all hot under the collar at India’s optional nets session at the R Premadasa Stadium in Colombo on Tuesday (August 29).
The Indian team was out in the afternoon sun, getting their game in order before the fourth One-Day International against Sri Lanka on Thursday. And Kohli, batting against the fast bowlers, was shaping up nicely when his session started, but once he missed a few, he swung his bat at the nets in anger.
He was especially livid with himself after missing a short and wide ball from a net bowler, who was actually quite quick. The Indian skipper huffed and puffed, taking his time to take strike. He eventually gathered himself but was not as composed as you would expect him to be.
Kohli started going after everything bowled at him and ended up out of shape a number of times. Even when he struck them clean, at least that is what it looked like because the ball was sailing over the ropes, he did not look happy.
Then, when he moved to the nets with spinners, he hit most of everything out the park in anger. Despite that, it was clear from his body language that something did not feel right. Just seven runs in the two previous games could be playing on his mind!
A couple of pitches away, MS Dhoni was going about his business in peace. He was striking the spinners as well as ever, hitting them over the sightscreen with consummate ease. It was all going according to plan, but then a man dressed in a crisp white shirt with bag in hand sauntered past the bowlers and into the nets.
From a distance, it looked like he was walking along the outside of the net to get a better view of the former Indian captain. But he was, in fact, walking up to Dhoni with a phone in hand. Dhoni, who initially tried to tell him to leave, conceded to the man’s persistence and posed for a selfie before shaking hands and resuming his session.
The team’s security in-charge was nowhere to be seen at the time, and by the time he made it out to the ground, the fan, who turned out to be a member of the ground staff, was speed-walking his way out.
While the mini-drama unfolded and drew plenty of laughs from those at ground level, two Sri Lankan spectators sat on the first tier by the pavilion and escorted every member into the dressing room with their banter.
KL Rahul was the first one out, and they shouted: “Two matches no form!” Rahul’s shrugged it off with a smile.
Kohli kept the duo engaged, telling them something with a cheeky grin on his face, before offering a quick shimmy and a wave of the hand. One of the two eventually asked: “Ehhh Kohliii, where is Anushka (Sharma)?” Kohli could not help but laugh. Before returning to the change room, he gestured to suggest that his partner, the popular Bollywood actor, had left.
Even Dhoni was not spared the genial send-off, but he offered nothing but his usual enigmatic smile. Kuldeep Yadav was asked: “Are you from China?” and the Chinaman bowler shot them a smile as well. What else could he do?
Rohit Sharma and Ajinkya Rahane, too, were being stopped, and much to the surprise of those around, the two batsmen engaged in a lengthy conversation with the men. Even after Rohit had returned to the room, Rahane leaned over the divider and spoke to them as if he had known them for a long time.
The sight of Indian players and Sri Lankan fans engaging with such comfort should come as a relief to those who were witness to the drama at Pallekele International Stadium on Sunday. Spectators started throwing bottles on to the playing area once it was clear that Sri Lanka were not going to win the third ODI either. They held up proceedings for over half-an-hour and a section of the ground had to be cleared before play resumed.
India are in Sri Lanka for two more ODIs and a one-off Twenty20 International, and more unruly behaviour from fans, even if it is directed at the home team, could leave a bad taste in the mouth. If things do go wrong, one hopes those two at the Premadasa don’t get in the Indians’ bad books. They are just there to have fun, the good ol’ Sri Lankan way.