Kolkata: Touted as the ‘Champions Ka World Cup’ or the ‘World Cup of the Champions’, the upcoming Champions Trophy is undoubtedly going to be a genuinely good tournament and Indian skipper Virat Kohli believes that his side is much more developed and experienced than the last edition of the tournament, where they clinched the trophy under the leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni after beating hosts England in a nervy final.
The eight team tournament is going to be Virat Kohli’s first major assignment as the captain of the ODI side after he took over the mantle from Dhoni back in January before the home series against England. Quite justifiably, he is ‘excited’ for the challenge.
“I am very excited to be playing as captain in my first major ICC competition,” said Kohli.
He further added, “As far as the team goes, we won last time because our fast bowlers did very well, our spinners were strong and our opening batsmen did well….They were the main three factors. This year the team is a lot fitter, the cricketers are a lot more mature because that was a very young group four years ago. It has gained a lot of experience in the last three or four years. I love the tournament because it represents a challenge from the (word) go.”
India would enter the tournament being one of the favourites but the team hasn’t played a lot of ODI cricket of late after they beat England 2-1 at home in January.
Also, the Champions Trophy wouldn’t provide much time for a team to ease into the 50 over format, especially after all the T20 and Test cricket that India has played in the last three months.
“In the ICC Cricket Wold Cup you have a league and a lot of games to play but here it is group games and then either the semis or you are out” said Kohli.
But India, has been provided with two practice matches before they take the field against arch-rivals Pakistan at Edgebaston in one of the most highly awaited clashes of the year so far. Their first warm game is against New Zealand on May 28 followed by another against Bangladesh on May 30.
India’s other two groups matches would be against Sri Lanka and South Africa, at the Kia Oval.
Virat Kohli has been in phenomenal form in 50 over cricket in the past one year or so as he averages a staggering 90 and at 28, he has already become the batsman to have the fourth most number of ODI centuries in the history of cricket.
But he didn’t have a good time with the bat in England the last time he played in the country as he failed miserably in the five match test series way back in 2014, where his average was below 20. What could turn out to be even more demotivating is the fact that he’s coming on the back of a poor IPL season with his franchise- The Royal Challengers Bangalore.
The new skipper of India’s limited over teams however feels that he has become more stronger mentally now and can deal with the England brings to him. “If you talk about the longer format of the game then I did not do well here three years ago…I was not able to contribute to the team and I want to succeed, although not to prove a point. It motivates me further to come back and do better,” said the right-hander.
“For me it is a game of cricket. From then to now, I have shown I am strong mentally. England brings a lot for challenges for a batsmen and I want to overcome them personally for my satisfaction at the end of my career…From that point of view, it is exciting for me” he added.
Virat Kohli without a doubt is one of the main players in the Indian team setup but veterans Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh still has a lot to offer. The aggressive batsman wants his predecessor to fire in the tournament. “We needed to strengthen our lower middle order contribution. Too much burden was on MS,” he said.
He further said ,“He was not able to express himself. But now we are balanced, we have good fast bowlers, depth in batting and the series against England [In January] sealed it for us.”
He believed that the team is in a good frame of mind and aren’t fatigued after playing non-stop cricket for the past three months. ”We are in a good head-space going into this tournament” said Virat.
(With inputs from an ICC media release)