The barman at The Castaways on the pristine Jolly beach in Antigua is involved in a light-hearted debate with another customer. We are witness to this debate, too.”I’m sorry for you guys, in advance,” the customer tells us.“No way, man,” the barman interrupts. “India have the ‘what’s his name’ and all our best players are playing the T20 (Caribbean Premier League)””What his name, man?” the barman asks us. “The batsman? The Indian batsman?””Virat Kohli?””Ahh yes, Virat Kohli,” he smiles. “There’s no way India are losing.“Whatever conversance you may have held about Virat Kohli’s talent, chances are you were not competently braced for his stunning blooming in recent years. He went to Australia and left the home side lost for words to describe his displays. He led the team to a historic series win in Sri Lanka in his first full series as Test captain. His form in the World Twenty20 was out of the world, but he proved that he still had a couple of levels to top during the Indian Premier League (IPL). From no T20 hundreds to four of them within two months. To top this, in One-Day Internationals, he already plays like he has keyed in an ‘Invincibility’ cheat code.In cricket’s lengthy and near-never-ending journal, only an esteemed few stand out as much or more as the incumbent captain of the Indian Test team. However, Kohli’s Test records, although rising steeply, do not induce the same sense of awe and unbelievability; 41 Tests, 2994 runs at an average that is less than 45.Kohli is now back to the stage where his Test story unfolded – in the Caribbean. His Test journey began as a 22-year-old in Kingston, Jamaica. He made 4 and 15. But unlike last time, where he came in as a youngster who, admittedly, ‘had little clue about Test cricket’, Kohli is in the kind of form and mood to conquer it all.”It’s a memorable place for me. I made my Test debut here. It’s nice to comeback after so many years, and having played so many Test matches all over the world in between,” said Kohli on the eve of the first Test. “Obviously, I had little clue about Test cricket. I came here and found out a lot about the format and what the challenges were at that stage. This is one place that made me realise where (I) needed to improve as far as Test cricket was concerned. I’m really happy to be back here. I’ve been here a couple of times after that, but never played Test cricket. So it’s a nice place to come and play. The atmosphere is really good, people like cricket, they support it. I’m really excited to play a Test match here after so long.”No wonder he is excited. His last 11 Tests (excluding the rained-out Test against South Africa in Bangalore) have seen him hit five hundreds and three fifties, and the expectations are constantly on the rise. Being the kind of player who thrives on challenges and stiff expectations, Kohli will be itching to get underway.He has passed, and with flying colours, his first few major tests as captain. His own form hasn’t been impacted. The players delight in working under an aggressive, expressive captain. And the team is winning and competing for top honours.With India facing a long, potentially sapping Test season, Kohli will have to be at his best as captain and player both to help India scale the top of the Test rankings again. And what better place to be than where it all started?The first circle of Kohli’s career may have ended. The second one, much bigger, more significant begins now. It will be one that will prove whether the earmark for greatness that was set out for him was worth it.The four Tests in West Indies will be the forerunner for the 13 at home. The home Tests will come against much tougher oppositions in New Zealand, England and Australia. During these three series, Kohli will also come face-to-face with players who are deemed his equals – Kane Williamson, Joe Root and Steven Smith. His deeds, will in all probability, be examined further.Hence the start assumes even more prominence for Kohli. A good series in the Caribbean will not only ease the ghosts of his rather disappointing Test series, it will also lay the platform for him to carry on.Kohli’s reputation still precedes him, but he no longer is just the potential superstar with a penchant for capriciousness and aggressive celebrations on the field. He is now the superstar. The Indian captain. An insane athlete. He deals with expectations. Surpasses them. Deals with higher anticipations and excels again.
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