Manchester: Having gained plenty of confidence from wins against South Africa and Australia, skipper Virat Kohli believes India can beat any side in the world. India remain one of the only two unbeaten sides in the World Cup, and even though their previous game against New Zealand was washed out without a ball being bowled, Kohli reckons his side is unmatched provided they play well as a team.
His comments came on the eve of perhaps India’s biggest match of the tournament so far – the marquee clash against Pakistan at Old Trafford on Sunday. But while India are yet to taste defeat, Pakistan have blown hot and cold, winning one, losing two and one match ending in a washout. India may lead 6-0 against their arch-rivals but Kohli maintained he and his team can’t afford to take any team lightly, including Pakistan. ALSO READ: Kohli plays down hype surrounding India-Pakistan tie
“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,” Kohli 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.”
India and Pakistan are not the only two teams playing Sunday. A third factor called the weather also threatens to have a say in the match. It rained a bit on Friday, followed by an hour-long strong drizzle Saturday, leaving the outfield wet. The forecast is better for Sunday, which predicts passing showers. Kohli mentioned India would wait and watch between Saturday and Sunday morning before deciding upon the team combination. ALSO READ: Erratic Pakistan renew rivalry with India in marquee World Cup clash
“If the conditions are very different from what we played in the last game, then we’ll have to think of different combinations, you know, which areas to strengthen when it comes to the bowling attack. If pace becomes a more important option, then we’ll look to explore that,” said Kohli.
“If not, if the length of the game is going to be full and we expect the game to be 50 overs both sides, then we’ll probably think of another combination, but we’ll have to be flexible. We’ll have to see how today pans out, how tomorrow the conditions are. I think all players are in a zone to be ready to play, so that helps in selecting the combination that you need to, depending on what conditions you’re going to face.”
Of course, no India-Pakistan press conference is complete without at least a passing mention of the Champions Trophy final in 2017, where Pakistan steamrolled favourites India. In that game, Mohammad Amir had ripped through the Indian battling order and finished with 3 for 16. Almost two years removed from that final at Lord’s, Amir once again threatens to be a threat to India because of his five-wicket-haul against Australia. His contest with Kohli promises to be a sight to behold even though the India captain played down the concept of a rivalry between the two.
“I am not going to say anything for different for TRPs or for exciting news. You have to respect every bowler’s strength. I just focus on the white ball or the red ball, regardless of the bowler. You have to respect a good bowler’s skillset. I said this even before the South Africa match about Kagiso Rabada,” Virat Kohli said when he was asked to comment on Mohammad Amir.
“Impact bowlers are there in world cricket. We have to be wary of their strength but at the same time focus on my strength to score runs.
“It’s not like if he [Amir] takes a wicket or I score runs, the match result is going to be decided. There are going to be 10 other players. All of them have to play well. I don’t think I am in a competition with anyone, that’s all talks from the outside. This kind of competition doesn’t even cross my mind. If you play badly against a bowler, you will get out. It’s that simple for me.”
For years, the contest has been billed as India’s batting vs Pakistan’s bowling. But giving the Indian bowlers edge ahead of the much-anticipated tie should not spring any surprise. India’s bowlers, especially their pacers, have been impressive in both wins and promise to pose a serious challenge to Pakistan’s batsmen.
“They are in a very good head space, and they bowled really well in the first two games. I think if physically they can stay fresh and their bodies are feeling good, mentally they’re in a very good space. I think, as much as they can take care of their bodies and their recovery and their energy levels, they will always be thereabouts with the skill because they’re all very experienced bowlers, especially Bumrah and Bhuvi are bowling really, really well. If you saw in The Oval as well, it wasn’t a pitch which was offering too much, but they created that pressure on the batsmen,” Kohli said.
“I think the most important thing for them is to stay in prime condition, and the mental side of things will take care of itself. Especially where conditions are like this, they’ll get a lot more help than the first two games. Not to bother about their preparation at all.”