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June 11, 2019

Can Pakistan stop Kohli’s juggernaut?


June 11, 2019

TAUNTON, England: Pakistan trained here at the beautiful County Ground on Monday morning with their sights focused on Wednesday’s vital World Cup game against Australia.

Such is the format of the tournament that despite having just three points from an equal number of games, Pakistan aren’t near the danger zone yet. But a defeat against the Aussies would move them closer to it.

The Pakistanis were buoyed up by their morale-boosting 14-run win over England at Trent Bridge last week but were disappointed after a washout in Bristol cost them a point against Sri Lanka, a side against whom they believed they had a good chance of earning full victory points.

They must be looking to produce, against Australia, the sort of performance that helped them stun England. They will need an even better showing against their next World Cup opponents – India.

The Indians, who have two World Cup wins from an equal number of games, seemed to be on a different level altogether as they comfortably tamed Australia by 36 runs in London on Sunday.

Their much-fancied top-order clicked once again while the likes of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were also impressive. Pakistan will take them on at Old Trafford on Sunday but their supporters are already wondering whether they will be able to stop the Kohli juggernaut.

But Sarfraz Ahmed, Pakistan’s captain, isn’t intimidated by India’s firepower. “They are playing well,” he told ‘The News’ in a chit-chat here at Taunton’s County Ground. “But I don’t think that they are as strong as they look. There are some chink in their armour and we know how to exploit them,” he added.

Sarfraz’s optimism stems from the fact that two years ago, Pakistan managed tame a previously all-conquering India in the final of ICC Champions Trophy in London. “Our team is very positive especially after the win against England and I’m sure the boys are ready for any game including the one against India,” he said.

But while Sarfraz’s Pakistan have, more often than not, flopped in ODI cricket, the Indians have established themselves as the team to beat in the World Cup. On Sunday, after watching India toy with Australia on their way to a 36-run World Cup triumph, Kohli exuded the confidence of a captain who knows his team was a winning unit.

The Indians, cheered by a packed crowd at The Oval, made 352-5 with Shikhar Dhawan hitting a ton and Kohli himself chipping in with a big fifty. “Look, we’re very well equipped, and as we said, if one of the top three gets a hundred, and today all three of us got runs, and then these guys become even more dangerous because they already have a platform where they can just come in and literally play like a T20 game. When that happens, you feel really good as a batting unit because that’s where these guys express themselves fully, and their skill sets come out to the max potential,” Kohli commented.

Despite making a flying start in the event, Kohli’s feet are placed firmly on the ground. While experts have tipped that India should comfortably make it to the semis after back-to-back wins against South Africa and Australia, Kohli remains guarded. “It’s far too early to talk about semi-finals, after six games we will be in a better position to think about that but it’s not for now,” he said.

“However, we couldn’t ask for a better start against two very strong sides and I like we’ve got the strongest sides in world cricket early on. We have to be at the top of our game from the start of the tournament.”

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