Champions Trophy 2017: Virat Kohli says India’s middle order strength big factor

Virat Kohli has said the current Indian cricket team has a strong batting line-up, something which was absent during MS Dhoni’s tenure as skipper and it put a lot of strain on him.

icc champions trophy 2017 Updated: May 25, 2017 20:45 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Champions Trophy 2017,ICC Chanmpions Trophy 2017,Virat Kohli
Virat Kohli has said India’s lack of strength in the middle order during the tenure of MS Dhoni had put the team under pressure.(Getty Images)

India skipper Virat Kohli said on Thursday that shaky middle-order batting had hampered India and put his predecessor MS Dhoni under a lot of pressure.

“The one thing we needed to strengthen was our lower-middle order contribution. That I felt was…. too much burden was coming on MS (Dhoni) in the past couple of years. He wasn’t able to express himself purely because there are not enough guys showing composure to finish off games with him,” Kohli said in his pre-ICC Champions Trophy press conference in London on Thursday.

“But having had Kedar (Jadhav) and Hardik (Pandya) do so well in that particular phase of the innings, that’s really strengthened our squad. And how they’re coming in provides that beautiful balance to us. That was one area we needed to strengthen.”

Virat Kohli is confident going into the June 1-18 tournament where defending champions India are in Group B with Pakistan, South Africa and Sri Lanka. The top two teams will progress to the semifinals.

“I feel we’re pretty balanced going forward. All the bowlers are bowling well. The batsmen are playing well. We’ve got depth in batting. We’ve got order on those. We’ve got really good fast bowlers. So that’s one area we needed improvement on and the series against England really sealed it for us,” said the 28-year-old.

“We’re in pretty good head space going into this tournament. You might have the best side in the world but if you don’t execute, there’s no point having that skill. So, in a tournament like this, it all boils down to how you execute on the day.”

In 2013, India defeated hosts England in the final by five runs at Edgbaston. Kohli listed the Rohit Sharma-Shikhar Dhawan opening partnerships, great fielding and the bowling, especially Ravindra Jadeja and R Ashwin, for the success four years ago.

“Those, we have recognised in England, are the areas that need to be strong for you to be able to go a long way in any tournament.”

Kohli, who will be leading the side for the first time in an International Cricket Council (ICC) event, believes India are equipped to defend the title.

“The team is much fitter. The cricketers are much more mature. That (2013) was a totally young group and a lot of them are playing in this team from that squad, which they’ve gained a lot of experience over the last 3-4 years. So that’s going to help as well,” said Kohli.

“But so have the other teams also improved. I personally love Champions Trophy because it presents a challenge to you right from the first game. We certainly have to be absolutely on the top of our game to have a great chance in this particular run.”

First Published: May 25, 2017 20:40 IST