'We're not focusing on the opposition, so for us no one's a threat. For us, no one player matters more than the other for us. It's about going into the park as the Indian cricket team and taking on whichever team is in front of us,' said Virat Kohli on the eve of the India-Pakistan contest at the ICC World Cup 2019
Manchester: India and Pakistan fans are excited to see the big clash between the arch rivals at the ICC World Cup 2019 on Sunday (June 16). How are the Indian players feeling on the eve of the game? Captain Virat Kohli answered that question and among other things, had a message for all the fans who would be watching tomorrow’s contest at Old Trafford in Manchester.
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On Saturday (June 15), Kohli spoke to the media. Here is the full transcript of the skipper’s press conference.
Question: Hi, Virat. How tough is it for India to prepare and plan for an unpredictable side like Pakistan?
Virat Kohli: Well, we know that they have a lot of talent in their team, but we know that, if we play well, then we play really well as a team. We saw that in the first two games that we played, very clinical performances, and we just focused on exactly what we need to do. We're not focusing too much on what the opposition has to do or what they will bring to the table. We need to believe in our strengths.
We believe, if we play well as a team, as I mentioned, we can beat any side in the world. That's the type of confidence we have carried in the first two games, and we want to continue in the same manner in the next whatever coming games we have.
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Q: Virat, considering Pakistan's proficiency against spinners, and also you may have had a look at the wicket, any kind of strategic changes that you're looking at?
Kohli: Yeah, I mean, the conditions and the length of the game will obviously make us think about a few combinations that we could potentially go in with. Look, as I said, we're not focusing too much on the strengths of the opposition. The kind of spinners and the kind of bowlers that we have on our team, it's difficult for any team to just come out and attack these guys straight away. There's a certain level of risk involved as well when you have world-class bowlers bowling at you, and you want to go at them.
I think, as I said, we need to focus on the things that we do well as a side and the kind of combination that we're comfortable with because we back all the players in our team and expect them to put in performances and turn up on the day and execute what they are best known for.
But, yeah, the length of the game and looking at the conditions, we will definitely think of a few combinations.
Q: Virat, looking at playing against Australia and how you approach Pakistan, which is also subcontinent side, and also with the rain threat around, how do you plan it? Do you have to plan something different from the matches?
Kohli: Look, we have to be flexible. We can't be rigid in our approach because, if the conditions are very different from what we played in the last game, then we'll have to think of different combinations, you know, which areas to strengthen when it comes to the bowling attack. If pace becomes a more important option, then we'll look to explore that.
If not, if the length of the game is going to be full and we expect the game to be 50 overs for both sides, then we'll probably think of another combination, but we'll have to be flexible. We'll have to see how today pans out, how tomorrow the conditions are. I think all players are in a zone to be ready to play, so that helps in selecting the combination that you need to, depending on what conditions you're going to face.
Q: I would like to ask about tomorrow's match after the weather. Who's the real threat in the Pakistan team for you?
Kohli: As I said, we're not focusing on the opposition, so for us no one's a threat. For us, no one player matters more than the other for us. It's about going into the park as the Indian cricket team and taking on whichever team is in front of us. If we play well, we can beat any side in the world. If you don't play well, teams are going to come out and beat you. That's how simple the game of cricket is, and it should be.
In our minds, nothing changes according to the opposition. We're only focused on playing the type of cricket we're known for, not singling out any player from the opposition or focusing more on one particular player than the other.
Q: Over the course of this match and Pakistan generally, you said that players need to treat it as just another match. That's always difficult. But you guys seemed extremely relaxed while practicing. Also, the fans, probably you can say something to the fans to treat this match as just another match?
Kohli: Look, I can't tell the fans to think of the game in a particular manner. For us, it's a professional approach to the game, which is most important. We can't get too emotional or too over excited with any occasion that we play in. So obviously, the mindset of the player is always going to be different from the fans. You can't mix the two. You can't expect the fans to think in a professional manner, focusing on each ball. Our attention span has to be very precise on the field because we have that split second to make a decision.
But from the fans' point of view, looking at the atmosphere and frenzy around the game, I wouldn't say it's easy to think like a player. For the players, it's very, very crucial to be absolutely professional and beat any team you're up against. I mean, in a World Cup we'll have full stadiums in every game. So it's not going to be drastically different at one field than any of the other games. It's going to be a full stadium, we know that. We expect that to happen in all the games that we play.
Look, the fans' point of view is very different. They should enjoy the atmosphere. They should enjoy the occasion the way they want to and the way it's been enjoyed for years, but the players obviously have to maintain the mindset we have for years approaching any kind of game, whether it's India-Pakistan, India-Australia, India-England or South Africa, whoever it is. Our mindset remains the same, just to go out there and be professional about our cricket and execute what we're expected to execute because for us this is a responsibility and people expect us to play a certain way, and that's our focus.
Q: Virat, from the Champions Trophy (2017) time onwards, this is a team we've played not very often compared to, let's say, Australia. How much of a challenge is it to play against the unknown factors? There are some players which would change. New players would come in. Is it more challenging, or how do you approach it?
Kohli: I don't see it as a massive challenge because even the teams that you know very well, you still have to go out there and play good cricket. And if you play good cricket, if you do the basics better than the opponent, then invariably in cricket you win, unless someone comes out and creates a match-winning magical performance all by himself. More often than not, if 11 guys execute what they're supposed to on the field with absolute precision and focus, you end up winning the game more often than not.
So for us it's, as I said, the most important thing and the most crucial thing is to focus on us as a team and what our strengths are, and we believe that, if we do our strengths well, that is good enough for anyone in the world and up against anyone in the world. So we have to carry that kind of belief. For us then, familiar oppositions, unfamiliar oppositions don't matter because you understand that, if you don't play well, you don't win, and if you play well, you can win against anyone.
So I think our focus will be to do that and do that consistently because it's a long tournament and we need to keep playing the kind of cricket we have played in the first two games.
Q: Virat, for many people, it is not only a game, it is something else, especially in India and Pakistan. But you tell me that there are new guys in the Indian team as well. So what are you telling them, and what is the mood in the camp now?
Kohli: We have literally discussed nothing different from the time we came to England. The mood, the atmosphere in the dressing room hasn't changed. We understand that any game that you play for your country can be emotional, adrenaline filled, so no one game is more important or more special for us than the other.
As cricketers who have been selected to play for their country, our responsibility is to treat every game equally because you have to be committed to play for your country every game that you play regardless of the opposition. For us, nothing in the change room is different. Nothing changes in our mindset. We are a top side in the world because of the cricket that we played, and we always need to remember that, and our focus is absolutely that.
So the conversation, the chat in the changing room hasn't changed at all, from the time we came to England and played our first game until now, and it's not going to change in the future as well.
Q: Virat, you have had some outstanding success under pressure over the years. But how difficult is it as a captain to keep the youngsters away from the hustle and bustle, from the heat and frenzy of an indoor park meet? You can always say we concentrate on what we are to do, but it really is something different outside. How difficult is it as a captain to keep them away from it? And especially considering that weather is playing spoilsport.
Kohli: I think the best way to approach something like this, if one focuses too much on what's going on the outside, it's to understand that the game starts tomorrow at a certain time and it finishes at a certain time, so it's not going to last a lifetime for you, whether you do well or you don't. That's the one thing that, as cricketers, always keeps you grounded, always keeps you focused, because our tournament, whether we do well as a team or we don't do well, tomorrow is not going to finish. So even if we have like a good performance as a team or a performance where we feel like we can improve in more areas, the tournament still has to go on.
So I think the focus always has to be on the larger picture, but on that particular day, you need to come out there as a team and execute the plans that you have as 11 guys on the field so that way no one person takes more pressure than the other, even if you talk about the youngsters on the side. They will feel like they have the support of seniors.
As a whole unit, you understand that 11 guys share responsibility, and that's been our message from the day that we came here and it's all about the team.
Q: And if it rains, then what?
Kohli: It's in no one's hands. We've been in these situations many times in our careers, and we'll just have to wait and see how the weather pans out. Whatever amount of game we get, a full game would be outstanding, but whatever amount of game we get, we have to be mentally ready to go in there and do what we need to do.
Q. Fast bowlers haven't had an ideal preparation for this big game after our last match that was in London. So going into this big match, can you just brief us as how they have prepared?
Kohli: They are in a very good head space, and they bowled really well in the first two games. I think if physically they can stay fresh and their bodies are feeling good, mentally they're in a very good space. I think, as much as they can take care of their bodies and their recovery and their energy levels, they will always be thereabouts with the skill because they're all very experienced bowlers, especially (Jasprit) Bumrah and Bhuvi (Bhuvneshwar Kumar) are bowling really, really well. If you saw in The Oval as well, it wasn't a pitch which was offering too much, but they created that pressure on the batsmen.
I think the most important thing for them is to stay in prime condition, and the mental side of things will take care of itself. Especially where conditions are like this, they'll get a lot more help than the first two games. Not to bother about their preparation at all.
Q: For all the years, the moment against Pakistan where you really feel tensed and your funniest moments against Pakistan on field. One most tense when you felt and one funny or more delightful.
Kohli: Tense was Champions Trophy 2009, where Yuvi (Yuvraj Singh) fractured a finger, and I was literally flown in and in two days time I was playing against Pakistan at Centurion. I hadn't experienced anything like that before, and I played a very bad shot, and I couldn't sleep until 6:00 in the morning. I was looking at the ceiling and thinking, that's it, I've flown in, and now I'm finished. So that was the most tense moment I've experienced.
The most funny, there have been many funny moments. I mean, over the years, I mean, I can't explain the incident properly, but it happened during the World Cup, and in Mohali (2011 World Cup semi-final) there was a little incident which I saw from the opposition side, which I can't really elaborate here (laughter). That was quite funny.
Q: Involving who?
Kohli: It was involving Shahid Afridi and Wahab (Riaz). I was standing with the striker, and I heard a conversation, which as I say, I can't elaborate here, but in a high pressure game, that made me laugh, that's all I can say.
Last Updated 10:11 PM IST