Kohli: ‘Felt like a club batsman’

The Indian batsmen remained focussed despite the frequent rain breaks, with Rohit Sharma (91 off 119), Shikhar Dhawan (68 off 65), Kohli and Yuvraj rising to the occasion after the match was reduced to 48-overs-a-side.

Yuvraj Singh left injury frustration behind to carve a masterful 53 off 32 balls, putting India in the driver’s seat.   -  Getty Images

Indian captain Virat Kohli said he “felt like a club batter” when teammate Yuvraj Singh was in full flow in the ICC Champions Trophy win against Pakistan here, crediting the left-hander for taking the pressure off him.

Defending champion India started its title defense with a resounding 124-run victory over arch-rival Pakistan. Kohli and Yuvraj dazzled in an all-round batting effort, propelling India to 319 for three after rain halted proceedings twice. Yuvraj smashed 53 off 32 balls, while Kohli made 81 off 68 deliveries.

“The way he (Yuvraj) was hitting the ball, I felt like a club batter in front of him,” Kohli told reporters at the post-match press conference.

“After I got to 50, I wasn’t able to play freely, but Yuvi came in and just took all the pressure off me. Only he can strike the ball like that-hitting low full tosses for fours and sixes, and even digging out yorkers for fours; it was outstanding,” he added.

“I think that really deflated the opposition and gave me a bit of time to settle in at the other end. When he got out, I took over. But I think his innings made a difference in the game,” he added.

While he was pleased with the win, Kohli was not impressed with India’s fielding.

“With the bat and ball, right up there -I would say nine out of 10. In the field we were still 6. It’s a very strong performance, we’ve taken the confidence from the practice games, but we need to tighten our fielding to compete hard against the best teams,” he said.

The Indian batsmen remained focussed despite the rain breaks with Rohit Sharma (91 off 119), Shikhar Dhawan (68 off 65), Kohli and Yuvraj rising to the occasion in a game reduced to 48-overs-a-side affair.

“I think the way Shikhar batted, it was really good to see. Rohit was taking a bit of time, understandably so, he has made a come back after a long time. IPL is different, but scoring runs in international matches is very different and that too against a quality bowling attack,” Kohli said.

“And Hardik, 18 off five balls, was outstanding. We went with four seamers purely because we were playing Pakistan. They play spin really well, and most of them are right-handers. In pressure situations, to have mid-on, mid-off up and hit hard lengths, gives us an advantage. Against other sides, we might use two spinners, depending on their strengths,” he added.

Asked what it meant to play against Pakistan given the continuing tensions between the two countries, Kohli chose to offer a diplomatic reply.

“This one’s done and dusted. We come here to play the sport, and that’s all we focus on. It’s not my place to speak of any other decisions. The higher officials take care of those matters,” he said.

“My opinion does not matter and should not matter. It’s up to them-what they decide going ahead. But regardless of who you play, you just want to play cricket,” he added.

“It’s not preferences over opposition. And that’s all I can say about this.”

Nonetheless, Kohli said he does enjoy the competitiveness of Indo-Pak cricket rivalry.

“They’re a very competitive side. The atmosphere is great. From that regard, as a cricketer, we really enjoyed this game, that’s all I can say.”

Man-of-the-Match Yuvraj was happy that he could capitalise on the chances offered by the Pakistanis.

“I thought we all batted really well. The openers gave us a good start, Virat finished well, and it gave me the opportunity to go and attack. You just have to go and back yourself, and tell the opposition that you’re here to attack,” he said.

“I was lucky I was dropped, but I capitalised and I was hitting it well. I finished well. India-Pakistan is always a big game, and I think it has set us up really well. Hopefully we’ll take this confidence into the next game against Sri Lanka.”

On the decision to send Hardik Panya ahead of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Kohli said it was based on the former’s ability to strike it big from the word go which dictated the move.

“It was unbelievable, the way he came out. And we switched in the end. They asked whether we should send Hardik ahead of MS, and everyone agreed, because he can use the long handle from ball one,” Kohli elaborated

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