Manchester: It was a departure from the usual pressure of a World Cup semi-final when at Old Trafford, Indian skipper Virat Kohli may have felt a little relieved as one of the questions took him on a journey down memory lane to his exploits as a 19-year-old boy.
It was the first question to Kohli. Does he remember that 11 years ago as a 19-year-old boy, Kohli had lifted the Under-19 World Cup after defeating young Kane Williamson’s New Zealand in the semi-final in 2008? Will he be able to repeat that feat here?
“Actually, I’ll remind Kane also when we meet tomorrow. I’m sure he remembers. It is quite nice to realise that after 11 years we are again captaining our respective nations, but in a seniors’ World Cup this time. It’s a great feeling and coincidence as well since neither of us would have anticipated this to happen again!”
Kohli was also reminded that he had taken Williamson’s wicket in that semi-final, something that he didn’t recall. On India’s bowling combination, Kohli said in zest: “We are up to reviewing that. If not, I can bowl any time. I was just told that I’d got Kane out!”
Kohli presented a very jovial face but he also spoke about how pressure can pull a team down. “We are happy it was only a one-hour travel (to Manchester from Leeds), compared to the three-hour bus ride we would have had to take to Birmingham (if they played England). Also, Manchester is a great city to be in and all the guys were very happy. Everyone is very relaxed and confident. It’s been a long tournament, a lot of hard work and many intense games. We are really happy that we have made it to the semis and now there’s only one opportunity that lies in front of us and everyone is very excited for it.”
To a query on pressure, he said: “The Indian team always carries a lot of pressure and expectations wherever we play and we are quite used to that over the years. I think we are better equipped to react well (than New Zealand) in these situations because we know what these kind of games and our fan base and the expectations brings. Our aim and our focus is obviously on winning and, as I said, whichever team plays better will win.”
Kohli surprised everyone by saying his team is relaxed, though a knockout is one with no chance to slip. “In the league stages, when you know that you need a victory to qualify, the team is a bit more relaxed and you know you can go out then and try a few things. But in a knockout game, you need to be very precise and intense. It is up to both the teams to bring forward their A-game and whoever handles pressure better is the team that is going to come out on top. We certainly are looking forward to doing that.”
When asked about whether winning the toss would be vital since all team’s batting first here have won, Kohli said it is all about handling the pressure of chasing. “It comes back to the same point, handling pressure. You make two bad decisions while you are chasing and the game goes away from you, too far to pull it back.
“Having been part of many chases, I understand that the pressure can be very high if you don’t go with the pace of the game. Also, given the magnitude of a tournament like this, you probably are going to end up making a couple of mistakes and the opposition is not going to let you off after that. So we are not worried about the toss. It is an uncontrollable thing — it’s a stat which I think is connected to pressure and not the pitch.”
Catch the match: India vs New Zealand
Old Trafford, 1.30pm start
Live telecast on OSN Cricket