Somewhere in Victoria’s south, a dossier on the world’s best batsmen has been reduced to recycled pulp.
You see, Darren Berry moved house a fortnight ago. His notes were thrown out in the cull.
“Sadly, I’m no longer involved,” he told me. “I painfully looked at them all then threw them all out. I thought well, they’re not needed any more.”
It’s a blight on the system that one of the game’s sharpest minds and most astute thinkers won’t have a role guiding the current crop this summer.
Chuck was the most thorough coach I’ve ever had anything to do with.
I had a front-row seat at the Champions League T20 tournament in India back in 2011.
I was brought in as the media manager for the South Australian Redbacks team. Darren Berry was the coach.
The day before each match was a roundtable discussion among the full squad and staff (he insisted on inclusion) on our plans for the game.
What does the perfect over look like? The best time to bowl spin? Our powerplay targets? Which bowlers will be taken down?
“I was very well planned for whoever we came up against,” Chuck said.
He certainly was.
Franchise cricket had opened a window into the strengths and weaknesses of players around the world. Their skills and their mindset.
The senior players brought intel and perspective. But Chuck was already a step ahead.
The focal point of our meetings was a PowerPoint presentation beamed onto a big screen. One by one, he’d broken down the opposition. Then came the discussion and buy-in from the group.
Chuck was a disciplined student of the game. An analyst of high pedigree honed through his years as one of the finest glovemen in the domestic competition.
He earned a spot on the 1997 Ashes tour but retired from the game regarded by most as the finest wicket-keeper to have never played test cricket.
When Shane Warne took on the captain-coach role with the Rajasthan Royals in the inaugural season of the IPL in 2008, he took Chuck with him as his trusted assistant. Against the odds, they won it all.
And so began the build-up of notes and observations on the wealth of talent coming through the Indian system.
I have distinct memories of the meeting before our last game of the tournament against the powerful and imposing Royal Challengers Bangalore team.
Treat Daniel Vettori with respect. Milk him for a run-a-ball. Be risk averse.
Bounce Chris Gayle. No width to Tillekeratne Dilshan. Lines and lengths for each batsmen were discussed. Some bowlers were better suited than others.
Chuck had it all drawn up. A file and answers for every player on the opposition. He’d cracked the code.
For everyone, except one. The bloke who’d be batting at three. Virat Kohli.
By that stage Kohli was the 22-year-old rising star of world cricket.
His test career was just three average performances old at that stage but he’d already announced himself to the world in the shortened format and had six ODI tons next to his name.
The cricket world knew it was only a matter of time. I remember the first time I saw him play. It was the 2008 under-19 World Cup. Captain Kohli named man of the match in a tight semi-final against the Kane Williamson led and Tim Southee inspired New Zealand; then lifting the trophy in a rain-shortened final against Wayne Parnell’s South Africa.
Yep. He was bloody good. The third most runs for the tournament and the player most predicted would emerge with the brightest future in the years to come.
There simply weren’t many flaws in his game. And Chuck knew it, even back then.
“My notes were something about how feisty he was. A bloke who thrives on a verbal stoush. He wants a fight. So give him nothing,” Berry recalls.
It’s interesting that in interviews this week, Australian test captain Tim Paine has conceded that may be the way forward this summer. Hitting Kohli with verbal artillery has backfired on them in the past.
That role at the Champions League in 2011 led me to a return trip to the sub-continent the following year.
I was hired as a media manager for the 2012 IPL tournament. And after a mishap with local authorities in Kolkata, I was put on a flight to Bangalore the next day to work on the Royal Challengers’ home games.
And they were a fun team to be around. Some believe it explains why they’ve never won the tournament itself!
Gayle was the heartbeat of their social capital. AB de Villiers brought the freakish match-winning brilliance. And Kohli did both.
IPL games are played in two timeslots. 4pm and 8pm. In Bangalore, a 4pm schedule meant one thing. An early finish. And a late night.
Parties would be held at the team hotel. And they were some of the weirdest scenes I’ve ever witnessed.
The room split in half. A way of separating the VIP’s from those deemed not so VIP. The front section divided by a runway with models shipped in to parade down the catwalk. Every so often they’d be joined by selected players. In between strolls, Gayle would be spinning tracks on the turntable.
And within that, a roped off section for players and officials. And somehow, that’s where I sipped cold Kingfishers, shoulder-to-shoulder with cricket royalty.
Two teams who had just been in battle, socialising as one. The way cricket should be. But not previously a traditional post-script to the Indian game. (In more recent times though, organised after-parties have been banned.)
Nonetheless, the man going out of his way to bring them together – was Virat Kohli.
I couldn’t help but admire those character traits. A young man who only hours earlier had been such an antagonist, agitator and irritator – being the glue for this broader group.
He laughed. Danced. Drank. Chatted. And then, quite often, the party would continue back in his suite. The tunes cranking as a verified World XI – and me – stood around talking about life and anything other than cricket. Oh, if walls could talk.
This was the new India. And Kohli was driving it. It was unpredictable. The mould was broken. And it was hard to plan for. Just ask Chuck.
We lost that game that night in Bangalore. A last ball six sent us packing from the tournament. It still haunts many.
But the damage was done earlier than that.
Through a Daniel Harris ton and Callum Ferguson 70, the Redbacks made 2/214. The highest score of the tournament in a must-win game.
Shaun Tait bagged five wickets. Rare in T20 cricket.
But Virat was peerless that night. All flair and strut and swagger and ego meshed with a gluttonous dose of his unparalleled ability to control and bully a run chase on his own.
He only faced 36 balls. Six overs on his own. When he walked off he had 70 to his name and the finishing touches just needed to be applied.
Sometimes greatness comes to the fore. The superstars can do that.
Virat Kohli certainly fits that bill.
The one bloke we didn’t have an answer for. Nine years on, it’s only become harder to work out.