After a brilliant win over Pakistan in their ICC Champions Trophy 2017 opener, defending champions India are set to take on Sri Lanka in their second match of the tournament. A win here will see India become the second team to secure a semis berth. It’s a big game for Sri Lanka as they desperately need a win to stay alive in the competition. Ahead of the fixture, Virat Kohli addressed the media and spoke about praise coming from the opposition camp, Hardik Pandya and more.
On praise from the opposition camp: We are playing good cricket, I don’t think when you are playing good cricket, you should look too much into the praise factor. As a team, you can focus on what is happening right, the things that are working for the team. As a team, we really don’t focus on these things and we try to maintain the same kind of intensity and momentum regardless of how we are playing. But yes, at this moment we are playing some good cricket but that doesn’t mean that we play with arrogance as a team. We respect every team same way and intend to play the same kind of cricket with everyone. In this sport, anyone can upset anyone on their given day. This tournament featuring the top eight teams in the world, you certainly cannot even think of taking anyone lightly.
On Hardik Pandya: He is a real asset to Indian cricket. It is really hard to find a guy, who can touch the speed of 140 and strike the ball the way he does. So if you give him 16-17 overs to bat, he can do the job for you. It is really hard to find a player with such abilities and once you find a player like him, you have to make sure that he is always committed and motivated to give his 100%. This comes naturally to Hardik so you don’t have to motivate him. People should appreciate his skills and what he brings to the table. He has his own journey and he is finding his own way. If he gets the support he will go down as one of the most accomplished Indian cricketers in times to come. He is a fit guy, superb in the field, with the ball and brilliant with the bat. The kind of balance he brings to the team is priceless and it was on display on the other day.
On playing Pakistan and now other teams: Not at all, we are excited to be here in this tournament and play against the top teams in the world. Starting off with Pakistan, the environment around the game was very exciting, and as cricketers, we treat the game same way. We know that where ever we play, we will have a big crowd. Indian fans really like to travel and support the team. And we see this everywhere in the world. The environment is not going to change much especially if the team starts winning then the buzz gets bigger and bigger. I don’t see the environment getting flat after the first game. In fact, I think there is more excitement among the fans because they expect the team to play well and the way you start like this, they get more involved. As cricketers playing for India, you get good environment and one should cherish that.
On Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka is among the top eight teams in the world has have done really well in the ICC tournaments. They have got talented players in their team and are a young team. They are currently going through the transition phase. But they have players who can deliver match-winning performances on their day. On fielding, I felt may be starting the tournament and having done so well with the bat, I think the guys wanted to bring in that extra energy. Sometimes, starting with the tournament, creating momentum as a team, you can misfield, you can get over excited. There can be lapses as well especially when the team is seven or eight down and you know that the game is going to end soon. We have addressed the guys and have asked the guys to be ruthless and finish games off. The teams that bat deep can have 70-80 run partnership and we have to plug those goals.
On playing Jadeja over Ashwin: Ashwin is a high-class bowler and is very professional as well. He understood the dynamics of the side that we picked in the last game. He told me that I support you with whatever you want to do and that has always been our equation. Yes! We do have disagreements on bowling plans because he has his own plans. But in this case, where team selection comes into play, he is very professional and puts the team first.
On the decision of shifting gears in middle overs: It really depends on who is striking the ball better which you get to know as batsman. Who is ready to take on the bowlers and clear in their head in terms of getting the boundaries. We keep switching roles. What happened with me and Yuvi (Yuvraj Singh), was although we both could not communicate for long enough as his intent was pretty clear. I only had to take over after his wicket. You get a feel of the game through the overs, there comes a span of two-three overs where you understand when a guy is shifting gears and you play a supportive role.
On Mohammed Shami’s absence: Shami hasn’t played 50-over for a long time and I’m glad the way he bowled in the warm-up matches. I felt Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah had more match practice and performances to back that up in the past few series we played. A bowler like Shami will always be there in your setup and we know about his abilities. He is that sort of a guy, who can win you games in any form of game. He is feeling his way back into the groom and if something happens to anyone, we already have someone who is ready to strike and has already proved himself.
Decision of leaving out Ashwin, and Hardik ahead of MS Dhoni: Not hard at all, the kind of understanding we have within the team. It’s difficult to explain. We have lot of respect and trust among the players. There is total transparency and everyone respects and understands what we decide to do as a team. All the guys trust and respect each other.
On Indian bowling on seam friendly pitches: It feels good that to have four-five bowlers who can change the game. It also boosts batsmen confidence. In ODI and T20I cricket, good batting performance can help you win matches but in Test cricket it is important that your bowlers manage to deliver in both the innings. In near future, our bowlers will deliver more match winning performances.