Virat Kohli walks back to the pavilion after his dismissal during a Twenty20 match against Sri Lanka at the Pallekele International Cricket Stadium in Pallekele. AFP/Ishara S Kodikara
He is India’s in-form batsman, but lot of focus will also be on whether Virat Kohli can galvanise the team on the field in the absence of MS Dhoni after defeats in South Africa and New Zealand. The young batsman in this interview says his first priority will be to give the bowlers, under the most pressure, the freedom to set their fields.
What are the areas you will focus to help the team reach its peak again?
I have a pattern of captaincy I was following (it) against both Zimbabwe and West Indies; I will try to work on those plans with my bowlers and teammates. My effort would be to keep the players as comfortable as possible on the field. I would help them bowl according to their field placements. As they evolve in a healthy, confident environment, it would be good for the team and their confidence.
There is no MSD, Yuvraj, Raina. Is the inexperience a concern?
There is lot of inexperience in the team, but I look at it as an exciting opportunity because whenever a player comes into the team, he is inexperienced. It takes time for him to grow and you need a big tournament where if you perform better, your confidence level can change. If you see in the middle order, Ajinkya Rahane is there, Ambati Rayadu is there, and Dinesh Karthik has got another chance, so these players would be obviously eager. If they perform good in such a big tournament, their confidence level will increase, which for an international cricketer is very important. For me, it seems to be quite an exciting phase, because people are saying they are inexperienced, but if we win and if we are able to do something special in this tournament, as we have done in the Champions Trophy, after that the players had become very confident. So we will try in such a big tournament that everybody performs, especially inexperienced ones. If they are able to perform well on this platform, it would be very good.
India’s death bowling has been an issue, is it an added pressure for the batsmen? And being the subcontinent, will you have to make massive scores to win?
We cannot factor in how many runs we can defend in the death, but that has been one of our areas of concern. In New Zealand, we performed better in death bowling as the games progressed. The guys have been working really hard, so I hope to see the results here. Batting wise, we will not set the target keeping that in mind.
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You captained in West Indies and Zimbabwe last year. What will you draw from that stint?
Those two series went pretty well for me. The one thing I’m going to stick to is the pattern of captaincy I have followed, in those two series and in the IPL as well. I wish to give my bowlers and my team a lot of confidence in what they want to do.
Other captains like Angelo Mathews and Misbah are quite experienced, how do you compare yourself with them?
I’m not comparing myself with anyone, but I am very confident about my captaincy as I have already led India and in the IPL also. I have confidence I can bring out each player’s ability fully and also give them a lot of confidence… I would like to stick to what I know best and what I have confidence in. If you believe in something, and in your players’ abilities, then your plans end up being on the right side.
What will be your biggest challenge?
It has to be captaining in such a big tournament, especially in the absence of Dhoni, who has been such a great captain and a game finisher also. But I think the guys who are in the middle order — and you know he is a replacement, Dinesh Karthik — all of them will be eager to step up and prove themselves and perform under pressure.
(Virat Kohli spoke to STAR POWER, the daily sports update show on STAR SPORTS)