Mumbai: Ranked second in the world and with a bunch of proven match-winners in their ranks, India are strong contenders to triumph in the upcoming World Cup. But ahead of his side’s departure to England for the showpiece event, skipper Virat Kohli expressed caution.
“This would probably be the most challenging World Cup of all the three that I have been part of,” Kohli began at a press conference here on Tuesday. Looking at the strengths of all teams and the format, it’s going to be challenging. If you look at Afghanistan from 2015 to now, they are a completely different side.
“Any team can upset anyone on their day. That’s one thing that we have in mind. It’s not the group stage format any more. It’s just playing everyone once. I think it’s a great thing to have for any team. It’s going to be a different challenge and something that every team will have to adapt very quickly to,” Kohli explained.
An India-Pakistan face-off is the most anticipated one in every World Cup. Passions run high when the arch-rivals meet. Kohli, often animated and aggressive on the field, stressed his players must keep their emotions in check. “We must try to be as normal as possible. Looking at the magnitude of the games, the team that stays more focused and more balanced is the team that goes a long way in the tournament,” he said.
Kohli felt the magnitude of the task at hand is similar to the ones seen in major football leagues. “If you look at the major football clubs in the world, in the English Premier League or in the La Liga, they maintain their intensity for three to four months. We have to arrive on the match-day with 100 percent intensity,” he offered.
India will know what pressure can do in big tournaments. Touted as one of the balanced sides in the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies, the Rahul Dravid-led side had a horrific start and succumbed to pressure to crash out of the competition in the group stage itself.
“Handling pressure is the most important thing and not necessarily the conditions. A team that does well in the World Cup is the one that can handle the pressure well. You don’t have room for complacency and that is why it is the World Cup. We expect that kind of pressure from the first second of stepping on the field. We are not even thinking that maybe from the first week onwards we will get into rhythm. We will be ready right from the start.”
A cause of concerns from the recently concluded Indian Premier League was the disappointing runs of Kuldeep Yadav, Vijay Shankar and Kedar Jadhav. Kuldeep, who has made rapid strides ever since he burst into the international scene two years, had a horror outing for Kolkata Knight Riders while Jadhav failed to make an impact for Chennai Super Kings and even battled an injury.
“In hindsight if you look at it, someone like Kuldeep, who has had so much success, it is important to see off the period when things don’t go your way also and we are glad that it happened during the IPL rather than happening during the World Cup. So, he has time to reflect, time to correct things and come into the World Cup even stronger. We know the kind of skill set he possesses along with (Yuzvendra) Chahal. They are really the two pillars of our bowling line up.
“In case of Kedar, we understand the kind of pitches they (CSK) got playing at home. We were not too worried about looking at Kedar,” Kohli said.
Former all-rounder Mohinder Amarnath had recently said that the Indian team must clinch the trophy as a tribute to the martyrs of the Pulwama attack. “There is no bigger motivation than the Indian Army. If you want to dedicate your win to the army, there can’t be anything better,” he said.