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Virat Kohli: AB de Villiers offers insight into India captain’s life ahead of ICC Champions Trophy final
Virat Kohli wary of being favourites but says India will cope with pressure
ICC Champions Trophy, India vs Pakistan: Virat Kohli Says No To Social Media Ahead Of Pakistan Clash
Virat Kohli said India will be neither intimidated nor arrogant when they face Pakistan in Sunday’s Champions Trophy final despite the widely held expectation his players will be the ones donning the International Cricket Council’s natty white blazers come the end of the blockbuster encounter. Kohli’s defending champions are the world’s No1 one-day team in waiting – victory here would knock South Africa off top spot – and after a nine-wicket demolition of Bangladesh in Thursday’s second semi-final face the side they so comprehensively outplayed when their campaign got off to a flyer a fortnight ago.
Pakistan froze that day, putting in an hapless fielding performance scarcely bettered with the bat, but they have surged to the final with three low-scoring victories that have owed much to the wily old-ball skills of seamer Hasan Ali – the tournament’s leading wicket-taker with 10 victims – and some fast starts by their newly capped opener Fakhar Zaman.
Kohli, speaking on the eve of the first meeting of the sides in a 50-over global final and one expected to draw in 300 million television viewers in India alone, remains wary of his side’s status as favourites. “I don’t see any relevance of the first game – you can never tell how a particular team starts a tournament,” the India captain said. “Some teams start confidently and then they fade. Some teams might not have the best start but they come back amazingly – which Pakistan have done. Everyone is aware of the talent they have – they can beat any side in the world. At the same time, neither are we too intimidated nor are we too arrogant about what we are doing. It’s important to maintain the balance of being confident in your own skill and what you are doing as a team.”
Coping with expectation has become second nature to Kohli, of course, having taken over from Sachin Tendulkar as India’s deified batsman and risen to world-class status in all three formats. The 28-year-old is now arguably peerless against the white ball, becoming in midweek the fastest to 8,000 ODI runs, in 175 innings, to go with his title as the greatest chaser in the game, with a record 17 of his 27 hundreds scored in the second innings of a match.
“It’s been quite a few years I’ve been dealing with [the pressure],” said Kohli, who has quietly caressed unbeaten scores of 81, 76 and 96 during this campaign, albeit with his one failure – a duck during the group-stage defeat to Sri Lanka – coming at The Oval.
“I know there are people that expect the team and myself to do well every time that we play, but I understand as a player and as a person that it’s not possible. You have to be close to reality. You have to find a way to deal with it. You can’t ignore it. You have to maintain a balance and then focus on what you need to do on the field. I think I’ve been able to strike a good balance until now, and yeah, I’m sure I’ll be fine for the final.”
Pakistan received a boost on Saturday when Mohammad Amir, who missed their shock semi-final win over England with back spasms, took a full part in training and was passed fit. While his deputy, Rumman Raees, stood up with two wickets on debut, the senior left-armer will slot back in for what is expected to be a run and sun-soaked Oval pitch at the expense of Raees unless the 18-year-old leg-spinner, Shadab Khan, makes way.
Sarfraz Ahmed’s side can be said to have exceeded expectations to reach this point, not least since they qualified for the tournament in eighth place and have been a side in exile since the 2009 terrorist attack in Lahore. Their cricketers have also been denied exposure to the Indian Premier League in light of political tensions between the two countries.
But their coach, Mickey Arthur, would be not satisfied with second place, having been buoyed by the nature of their resurgent campaign and the emerging talents of Hasan and Fakhar. “They’ve come in with no fear of failure. They’ve come in committed to the way we want to play our cricket. It just solidifies the direction we want to move in,” he said.
“But I don’t think we’ve exceeded expectations at all. We came here very firmly of the opinion that we wanted to win it, and that has been our chat all the time. The players have been outstanding, the way they’ve prepared and the way they dragged themselves off the canvas after the beating [by India] at Edgbaston, was amazing. To win it now would be fantastic.”
India (possible): R Sharma, S Dhawan, V Kohli (capt), Y Singh, MS Dhoni (wkt), K Yadav, H Pandya, R Jadeja, R Ashwin, B Kumar, J Bumrah Pakistan (possible): A Ali, F Zaman, B Azam, M Hafeez, S Malik, S Ahmed (capt/wkt), I Wasim, M Amir, S Khan, H Ali, J Khan Umpires: M Erasmus (SA) and R Kettleborough (Eng)