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ICC World Cup 2019, India vs Pakistan: Virat Kohli refuses to be swept up by hype over clash

Pakistan’s Champions Trophy win of 2017 remained something of a theme in both press conferences on Saturday, possibly because it was Pakistan’s most significant win over India in one-day cricket in the last decade.

cricket Updated: Jun 16, 2019 08:49 IST
Aditya Iyer (Chief Cricket Writer)
Aditya Iyer (Chief Cricket Writer)
Hindustan Times, Manchester
ICC World Cup 2019,India vs Pakistan,India Pakistan
India's captain Virat Kohli gestures during a training session ahead of their Cricket World Cup match against Pakistan at Old Trafford in Manchester, England, Saturday, June 15, 2019(AP)

At one point in the Virat Kohli press conference, a TV journalist wanted to know if Sunday’s match in Manchester was less a game between India and Pakistan and more a contest between the Indian captain and fast bowler Mohammad Amir. Kohli was also told that he was asked this primarily because the last time Kohli played against Pakistan, in the final of the Champions Trophy in 2017 here in England, Amir had dismissed him for cheap and the Indian chase soon surrendered. ((ICC World Cup 2019: Full Coverage))

“I do not want to say anything for your TRPs and neither do I want to create exciting news,” Kohli said in Hindi. “It’s not like if I do well with the bat or if he takes my wicket, the match will end instantly. There are 10 other players on both sides and they have a much bigger role to play than individuals.”

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On the eve of the India-Pakistan match, Kohli was asked this question in several different ways, just as he was asked how he and his team had prepared to tackle the unpredictability factor of Sarfaraz Ahmed’s side, who started this tournament with a capitulation against the West Indies and in the very next game out-hit this World Cup’s biggest hitting team, England. In two different languages and on five separate occasions he said: “We are not focused on them or what they bring to the table, we are only focused on what we can do as a team.”

Pakistan’s Champions Trophy win of 2017 remained something of a theme in both press conferences on Saturday, possibly because it was Pakistan’s most significant win over India in one-day cricket in the last decade. For those who have to drum up the possibility of a contest, like the host broadcasters in England, footage from the 2017 final is the only groove to hang a nail on, given that in World Cups Pakistan has not beaten India in six attempts and this Indian team is supremely consistent and Pakistan is everything but.

Also Read: IND vs PAK: Head-to-head record and other interesting facts

But precisely because it is an India-Pakistan match at a World Cup, there is little drumming up needed to fill the stands of Old Trafford, or seat families in front of their television sets back home in India; and Pakistan’s coach, Mickey Arthur, addressed just this when it was his turn to sit behind the microphones.

“I saw some stats which said the soccer World Cup final attracted 1.6 billion viewers. Tomorrow is likely to get 1.5 billion. It doesn’t get bigger or more exciting than that,” said Arthur. “I’m telling our players in the dressing room, you could be a hero tomorrow. Your careers are going to be defined by a moment in the game. You do something incredible tomorrow, you’ll be remembered forever.”

If there is a tomorrow, that is. As soon as the two press conferences at Old Trafford ended, the skies darkened and heavy rain pelted down on the covered infield and exposed outfield. The rain in Manchester is renowned for its powdery and pesky properties and the nature of the downpour on Saturday was far more severe than a drizzle. This is mainly due to a storm passing through England and more of this rain, the heavy kind, is forecast for the second-half of Sunday.

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When Kohli was asked about the inclement weather, he said: “Look, what we get is not in our hands. Whatever we get, we have to be mentally ready to go in there and do what we need to do.” He was indeed talking about the rain and its unpredictability, but Kohli could well have been speaking about Pakistan cricket’s most telling idiosyncrasy.

First Published: Jun 15, 2019 23:28 IST