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Pressure on England, India to play fearless cricket: Virat Kohli

The Virat Kohli-led Indian cricket team will take on England in the first of three Twenty20 Internationals in Manchester on Tuesday.

cricket Updated: Jul 03, 2018 00:01 IST
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Sanjjeev K Samyal
Hindustan Times, Manchester
Virat Kohli,Indian cricket team,England cricket team
England's Eoin Morgan, left, and India captain Virat Kohli pose with the series trophy between nets sessions at Old Trafford, Manchester, on Monday.(AP)

Virat Kohli declared that the pressure will be on England to take the game to India in the marquee series starting on Tuesday with the first Twenty20 International at Old Trafford, adding that they will be heading into battle with a nothing to lose mentality.

The captain said since the trophy was with India, having won in all the three formats playing at home in 2016-17, his team will have the advantage of playing fearless cricket.

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“Playing against a good team at their home, to get the opportunity to be able to beat them in their conditions, it is a point of excitement for us and not pressure. When they came to India last time, we won the series and the trophy is with us, and now they are on home soil and need to play well to win it back. We will play fearless cricket and have nothing to lose. We will go and express and enjoy ourselves in every format. As a team if we can maintain that mindset throughout the tour we will be able to improve as a team which is our main goal,” said Kohli.

Given that the World Twenty20 is two years away, the three-game T20I series is lacking in context and the focus is on the three-match one-day series that follows, given that the World Cup is just one year away.

The Indian think tank is looking at these T20 games as an opportunity to test a few areas of concern in the ODI team with Kohli raising the concern of getting his middle-order sorted.

“Looking at the World Cup, we will try a lot of players in the shorter formats. In the ODIs the middle order is something that we have been looking for and we have a few things that we want to try out and address there as well.”

On the 2014 tour, the sledging incident between James Anderson and Ravindra Jadeja led to the series having a controversial narrative. Thanks to the Indian Premier League (IPL), the 29-year-old was optimistic that this contest will be played in the right spirit due to more familiarity between the two sets of players.

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“It (IPL) certainly has (increased familiarity) already. Chris (Jordan), Moeen (Ali) were in our team (Royal Challengers Bangalore). We had a great time together. All of us got along really well. It is going to make relations between the two teams even better. Because England haven’t played so much IPL, there was never that familiarity or that sort of warmth between the two teams as much as we have with others, purely because we didn’t know the guys enough to be able to have conversations with them. This season has broken that barrier to a great extent. It is going to continue to happen in the future. I heard a lot of people are keen to go and play and they should,” added the India captain.

‘Haven’t set any targets’

Until Kohli’s bat does the talking in English conditions, especially in Tests against the red ball, critics will keep reminding him of his failings against the moving ball on the last full series here in 2014.

After four years of waiting, the highly-rated batsman finally gets another chance to make amends in England. His hopes for preparation have not gone according to plan, having missed his stint with Surrey due to a neck injury. But as he arrives in England, the weather gods are smiling on him.

Pointing to the sun-kissed Manchester, the India captain said: “Looking at the weather, not at all (setback of missing the Surrey stint). It is as dry as I’ve ever seen it.”

The original plan was formulated in expectation of the wet and damp conditions in England which he had encountered four years ago when the team were greeted by dark, heavy clouds on the opening morning at Old Trafford (in the fourth Test) and were blown away by England pacers.

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“The point was that we haven’t played in those wet and damp conditions ever as a team. And having spoken to the guys who’ve come here and played (Cheteshwar Pujara and Ishant Sharma), they said it was a great experience for them learning a lot more things about their game. As a cricketer you look for new challenges every now and then and that’s something that I wanted to go and experience. That was the main reason behind it. But looking at the weather it is totally opposite to what it was when the season was going on. In hindsight when I look at it, I don’t think it would’ve made too much of a difference to my preparation,” said Kohli ahead of the opening game of the long series against England.

Also, playing white ball cricket first will be to Kohli’s advantage as he looks to settle down early.

In the 2014 Tests, Kohli had a harrowing series, averaging 13.4 in five matches. To avoid letting the fear of failure to seize his nerves, the India captain has cocooned himself by blocking any negative thoughts. “Surprisingly or funnily enough I don’t think from fans or outside point of view. Even when we came here for the Champions Trophy (2017) that was the first question that was asked and my reply was I am just looking forward to having a good time here. It doesn’t matter whether I get runs or not, what I want is the team to play well and win. Obviously you want to perform as an individual but I haven’t set any benchmark or target and come here to do certain things which have to be special just because the last tour here I came on didn’t go well.”