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June 16, 2019

It’s just a match, enjoy it, Kohli tells frenzied fans


June 16, 2019

MANCHESTER: Virat Kohli isn’t just a batting maestro. He is also a very smart man, off the field.

The Indian captain proved it again when he faced a packed media conference with the straightest of bats.

Asked the same question in ten different ways by ten different reporters, Kohli refused to get drawn into the media hype created around the Pakistan-India World Cup game on Sunday.

“It’s just a game enjoy it,” was Kohli’s simple message.

Kohli appeared calm and composed as he made it clear that India would be treating the game against Pakistan just like it would treat any other World Cup game even if the 1.5 billion strong audience that is expected to tune in for Sunday’s game might think otherwise.

Kohli paid due respect to Pakistan labeling them as a talented team but was quick to add that his team was thinking about its own game and plans than anything else.

“We know that they have a lot of talent in their team, but we know that, if we play well, then we play really well as a team. We saw that in the first two games that we played, very clinical performances, and we just focused on exactly what we need to do. We’re not focusing too much on what the opposition has to do or what they will bring to the table. We need to believe in our strengths,” he said.

“We believe, if we play well as a team, as I mentioned, we can beat any side in the world. That’s the type of confidence we have carried in the first two games, and we want to continue in the same manner in the next whatever coming games we have.”

Mohammad Amir, who played a key role in Pakistan’s Champions Trophy triumph against India two years ago, is back in form. Does Kohli think that Amir or any other Pakistani player will be a threat for India?

“We are not focusing on the opposition, so for us no one’s a threat. For us, no one player matters more than the other for us. It’s about going into the park as the Indian cricket team and taking on whichever team is in front of us. If we play well, we can beat any side in the world. If you don’t play well, teams are going to come out and beat you. That’s how simple the game of cricket is, and it should be.

There is a lot of hype around Sunday’s game. Are India’s players feeling the heat?

“For us, it’s a professional approach to the game, which is most important. We can’t get too emotional or too over excited with any occasion that we play in.

“For the players, it’s very, very crucial to be absolutely professional and beat any team you’re up against.”

India haven’t played Pakistan many matches since the Champions Trophy. Does that make Sunday’s game more challenging?

“I don’t see it as a massive challenge because even the teams that you know very well, you still have to go out there and play good cricket. And if you play good cricket, if you do the basics better than the opponent, then invariably in cricket you win, unless someone comes out and creates a match-winning magical performance all by himself,” he said.

So how are India preparing for Sunday?

Kohli says they are treating like any other match.

“We have literally discussed nothing different from the time we came to England. The mood, the atmosphere in the dressing room hasn’t changed. We understand that any game that you play for your country can be emotional, adrenaline filled, so no one game is more important or more special for us than the other.

“Nothing changes in our mindset. We are a top side in the world because of the cricket that we played, and we always need to remember that, and our focus is absolutely that.

“I think the best way to approach something like this, if one focuses too much on what’s going on the outside, it’s to understand that the game starts tomorrow at a certain time and it finishes at a certain time, so it’s not going to last a lifetime for you, whether you do well or you don’t. That’s the one thing that, as cricketers, always keeps you grounded, always keeps you focused, because our tournament, whether we do well as a team or we don’t do well, tomorrow is not going to finish.”

Kohli isn’t thinking about the wet weather either.

“It’s in no one’s hands. We’ve been in these situations many times in our careers, and we’ll just have to wait and see how the weather pans out. Whatever amount of game we get -- a full game would be outstanding, but whatever amount of game we get, we have to be mentally ready to go in there and do what we need to do.”

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