India's Virat Kohli. Picture: REUTERS/DANISH SIDDIQUI
India's Virat Kohli. Picture: REUTERS/DANISH SIDDIQUI

London — Not for the first time and no doubt not the last‚ Virat Kohli stopped the world on Thursday.

He had not meant to‚ climbing into his taxi on schedule to make it to the East End at the appointed hour to take his place among the 10 captains of the teams contesting the 2019 World Cup.

But‚ London being London‚ and traffic being traffic‚ Kohli was late.

Just a few minutes late‚ mind‚ but enough for whispers of his predicament to swirl through a room filled with hundreds of reporters gathered for the first of what will be many media conferences before the final is played at Lord’s on July 14.

Put 10 captains on a stage and expect them to spin a decent yarn and you are likely to be disappointed — there’s too much avoiding saying the wrong thing to allow that to happen.

Moments before they took up their places a video illuminated the scene.

The second shot was of AB de Villiers driving down the ground in the green and gold he has chosen not to wear anymore.

One of the last was of Grant Elliott celebrating smacking Dale Steyn for six‚ straight no chaser‚ to put New Zealand into the 2015 final.

Thanks‚ International Cricket Council‚ for reminding the South Africans in the room of who their team will miss at this tournament and what they will never forget.

Kohli was‚ naturally‚ the centre of attention. What did he think of speculation that totals at this World Cup could rival Big Ben for height?

“They seem to be obsessed with getting to 500‚” Kohli said. “But I don’t see too many high-scoring games towards the end of the tournament. You could defend 260.”

So‚ Virat‚ what’s your personal opinion of why international cricket isn’t being played in Pakistan?

“My personal opinion doesn’t matter.”

Faf du Plessis? What do you reckon?

Given pitches almost as flat as the seams on the Kookaburra‚ how do you stop your bowlers from chucking up this cricket lark and going to take tea with the queen instead?

“With good wickets come boundaries‚ so you’ve got to make sure you keep the boys nice and pumped‚” he said.

Exactly how — massages every hour on the hour for Dale Steyn and his shoulder‚ a cottonwool cocoon for Lungi Ngidi‚ rollerskates for Imran Tahir so he doesn’t have to run too far to celebrate — he did not say.

The best question of the lot came from a girl who was among the children who led the captains down the stairs.

“If you could pick one player from the other teams to be in your side‚ who would that be?”

Before Kohli could answer‚ Aaron Finch headed him off at the pass with: “You can’t have AB.”

The man who stopped the world nodded in acquiescence: “I was going to choose AB‚ but I’ll choose Faf.  I’d love to bat with him.”

Kohli was also impressed with Rashid‚ the Afghan leg spinner ranked No3 in the world: “He has that fast bowler’s intensity. When he’s bowling you just want to sit down and watch.”

As for Finch‚ “KG Rabada; he’s a superstar.”

Du Plessis’ turn came‚ and he listed Jasprit Bumrah‚ Rashid Khan‚ and Pat Cummins.

What? No Kohli?

“That’s my bowling team. Virat is in my batting team.”

The best answer came from Afghanistan’s captain‚ Gulbadin Naib: “We have peace and cricket is part of that. Cricket is not a sport in Afghanistan. It’s something else.”

Not for the first time on Thursday‚ the world stopped.