A day before India opens its T20 World Cup campaign against Pakistan, India captain Virat Kohli gave an insight into the squad’s mindset heading into the World Cup.
Excerpts from the interaction:
Q. Can you give a sense about the sort of stuff that is being tried out with regard to combination over the last week or so, and if you can give us an idea about whether you have finalised the XI or 12?
A. Yeah, we have spoken about our combinations, obviously. I’m not going to reveal them right now, but we have put in place a very balanced team, and something that we feel covers all bases properly. And we are pretty confident in terms of execution, as well, because the guys have been playing a lot of T20 cricket recently in the IPL and everyone is playing well, so that is a very positive thing for the team.
Now it’s purely down to execution out there in the middle, which everyone as I said is confident to do so and professional enough to understand their roles, and role clarity is something that we have addressed already. We feel very, very prepared.
You surprised everyone with the decision to quit captaincy after the T20 World Cup. You issued a statement on Twitter , but could tell us what prompted you to take such a decision and announce it before the World Cup?
I've already explained myself a lot. I don't think I need to harp on that any more.
Our focus is to play well in this World Cup and do what we need to do as a team. The rest, I mean, people are trying to dig something that doesn't exist, and I'm not someone who's ever going to give order to that. I explained myself very honestly and openly, and if people feel there's more to it or there's something that's not been told, I feel pretty bad for them because that's certainly not the case.
You have always maintained that for the team it's just another game of cricket, but considering the hysteria it creates, sometimes does it get difficult to completely switch off from the atmosphere?
No, it does not. I mean, and it's a very situational thing because we are in a situation where we are in charge over what we need to do on the team, and we understand for that to happen, we need to be in the most balanced place possible. We feel pressure playing any kind of game, and it's also a thing to understand that as professional cricketers, you eventually start thinking about the situation that you're going to be in as batsmen and bowlers, or batters and bowlers, I should say, and it's very important for us to keep focused on that because a game like this, there's such unnecessary stuff from a professional point of view happening on the outside there. It's fine. It's fine, as long as that stays outside our controlled environment and we just focus on what we need to do as cricketers.
Hence I always maintain that for me it's never been different to any other game of cricket that we play. Yes, the atmosphere in the stadium is different, and our mindset is no different, our preparations are no different, and our approach to the game is also certainly no different.
Over the years we've seen that whenever it's an India-Pakistan contest, it's generally the Pakistan bowlers versus the Indian batsmen. But this time around, obviously the Indian team itself has some of the best bowlers in the business. As a captain, how confident are you going into the game when you have a bowling line-up like that?
We try and go into any game with absolute preparation, understanding of our plans, what we need to do against the opposition, and as long as we do that, we go in confident against any team in the world anywhere.
So for me to say that now we have great bowlers and we didn't have great bowlers before, I mean, we have won in T20 World Cups every time we have played them, so if it was only a case of our bowling being weak, then we probably shouldn't have won those games.
So I don't think on those lines. For me what matters is how the individuals are playing at that particular time, and what I can say is that all the people in the team are playing their roles to perfection, are executing their plans really, really well, and that gives us a lot of confidence heading into this tournament.
Do you think in the last 10 days since IPL’s conclusion, much work would have gone on the pitch, and will there be a significant change in the quality of the pitches?
I believe so. Looking at the IPL finals, I believe that the quality of pitches definitely is going to be far better in this T20 World Cup. Also it being an ICC tournament, we know that the standard of pitches has to be maintained to a certain degree which is consistent across all venues, and I understand that to protect the pitches for a tournament like the World Cup, there had to be some kind of compromising done with the playing conditions when we played the IPL. We all understood that, and the wicket in the IPL finals was very, very good.
I think someone asked me about the dew factor as well, and whether the toss was going to be important. I think the dew factor is becoming prominent as we head into this time of the year in Dubai, and that is also going to help the pitches play much better. I presume Abu Dhabi and Dubai are probably going to be the best pitches out of all the venues, and Sharjah more or less will stay true to its true nature, which is slow and low. I don't see many high scoring unless dew becomes such a massive factor there, as well, but yeah, wickets will be much better in this tournament.
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