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Kohli happy with favourites tag

The hosts India enter the tournament as favourites as the Super 10 phase of the competition kicks off with India v New Zealand in Nagpur

15 March 2016 14:27

In an era when teams and players are keen to deflect the tag of favourites and play down their chances, Virat Kohli provided a refreshing break from norm, almost embracing India’s tag as favourites for the ICC World Twenty 2016.

“If you know your home conditions well and you are playing good cricket, then obviously people will expect that you will go far in the tournament,” Kohli said on Monday (March 14), a day before their Super 10 opener against New Zealand.

“And we are obviously favourites in our own minds – if we aren’t, then there is no chance of progressing in the tournament. But the important thing is to focus on every game, because in this tournament if your focus wavers, the game moves so quickly that making comebacks becomes very difficult — as a batsman, as a bowler or as a team, all three. In this tournament, coming back from a poor phase is very difficult, so it’s imperative that you start on the right note, on a positive note, and maintain the momentum that we have built up over the last 11-12 matches. We have been able to perform so consistently because we have not thought too far ahead. We have looked to execute our skills in every game, and that’s why we have got results. We will try not to do anything too different in this tournament, and not look at this tournament in a very different way. That will be our strength.

“We are very confident with the way we have been playing,” Kohli said, alluding to India’s recent form. “We have won 10 out of our last 11 games, taking some good momentum in to the World Cup. The Asia Cup was a good preparation for us for a big tournament; getting the feel of playing against the big teams. But this is going to be far more challenging because you have teams from all over the world competing here. If you look at both the groups, the teams are very strong and they are evenly matched. It’s going to be tough but we would like to focus on our strengths. The oppositions don’t matter for us so much at this stage. Obviously, we need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition players, but it’s more to do with how we have played and continue the same way. We will try and execute the same things that have brought us so much success.”

India have continued to gamble with Mohammed Shami’s fitness, retaining him in the 15 even though he hasn’t played for the country through various injuries following the World Cup semifinal loss to Australia in March last year. “Obviously, when he was playing regularly for the team, he has done really well for us,” Kohli said. “He is one guy who has gotten us wickets with the new ball and who has attacked the batsmen everywhere he has played. Bowlers like that is always a plus. We were all waiting for him to get fit, come back and find his rhythm. He has done that, he has come back, he is finding his rhythm. He has bowled well in the warm-up games and he is looking good. He will only get stronger and stronger.

“I can’t comment on the combination or the composition of the squad. It’s very difficult to try and change something which has won you so many games but different conditions require different combinations and it’s up to the captain and the team management to sit down and figure out what needs to be done,” Kohli explained. “We are just glad to have him back in the squad; not meaning that because he has come back we will to have to change the combination too much.”

The last time India hosted a world event, the 50-over World Cup in 2011, Kohli was the new kid on the block. Now he is an experienced and wise head, with Hardik Pandya and Jasprit Bumrah the young turks. “I was quite anxious during the 2011 World Cup, to prove myself and establish myself. I think our youngsters now, whether it is Hardik or Bumrah, also have that anxiety in them, but they also have a lot more confidence compared to us when we came into the team, because they have played so much T20 cricket in the IPL, and played with big stars,” Kohli said, offering a peek into changing times and mindsets. “In this format, their preparation and mental set-up is very different to mine probably when I came into the team.

“We didn’t have this much exposure of playing with big players, or of having to perform at this level. These people have played IPL finals, performed in different situations. They have brought that confidence here, which is a very good thing. They have not paid that much attention to who is in the opposition, who I am bowling to or batting against. They have backed their skills, which they also do in the IPL, and that has been an X-factor for our team in the last few series. Hopefully, if they keep performing the way they have been, (it will keep giving us) the balance that they have given us in the last few series.”

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