“Credit to them, they've turned around things for themselves really well,” says the Indian captain.
A fiercely focused Virat Kohli, fresh off another unbeaten score in a run-chase, lauded his “outstanding” openers, with both bat and ball, as India marched inexorably on to a mouthwatering showdown against Pakistan at The Oval on Sunday.
Kohli, who finished on 92 from 78 balls, reserved special praise for his new-ball bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah, who shared four wickets between them as Bangladesh spluttered to 264-7. “They've been terrific initially, and in the later stages as well. Their length and line has been impeccable, so consistent, bowling close to the batsmen, always there with an opportunity to get a wicket. Even in conditions which are not offering too much, bowling such lines that we can produce wicket-taking opportunities.”
A batting masterclass from Rohit Sharma (123*) underscored India’s stroll to their victory target, and Kohli applauded Sharma’s class, while cautioning against overworking him after the right-hander’s recent hip surgery. “There's no doubt about Rohit's ability and what he brings to the team. We need to protect him going further because in the latter half of the year we have massive tours coming up, and his batting contribution will be a huge factor for us.
“We want him to be careful because after a massive surgery you do need to be careful. If you push yourself a little too hard and then it snaps again you're out for seven, eight months. I think it's a conscious decision by everyone to give him a break. He's making the most of the form he's in right now, and I'm sure he also knows and understands the whole situation.”
So CT17 has a tantalising final. A resurgent Pakistan – demolished by India in the teams’ opening fixture – lies in wait but Kohli, as befits his team’s public utterances throughout the tournament, is at pains to play down the rivalry.
“There are no statements in this game, honestly. No one is a winner beforehand, and you can't predict anything in this game. Regardless of who you play in the finals, it's always going to be challenging because once you start thinking that it's a big game, then your mindset changes. We've seen some really surprising results, and it's been amazing for the fans to watch and for the players to be a part of, as well. We just want to enjoy the final and we deserve to be there. We played some really good cricket. We're not going to take anything for granted for sure. It doesn't matter whether we win by nine wickets, or we win by one wicket. We're just going to go there and try to do the same things again and again. Be bowling as a team, and hopefully the results will come.”
As for Pakistan, Kohli describes their resurgence as magnificent. “Credit to them, they've turned around things for themselves really well. They've beaten sides that looked really strong against them, but the belief just showed on the field [with] the way they played together as a team.
“What we are going to try to do is repeat the similar sort of cricket that we have played so far, knowing the strengths and weaknesses they have. Obviously we'll have to plan a bit according to that, but I don't know there's much that we need to change as a team.
“I don't think we need to look too far away from what we are doing as a group, I think focus on our skills and our abilities and believe in ourselves on that particular day, and we'll give ourselves a good chance to go out there and do some good things for the team.”
This tournament of upsets, spills and turnarounds has the final it deserves, with the latest chapter in one of the fiercest rivalries in sport. The Oval, and the whole of the cricket world, expects. Sunday can’t come soon enough.