Manchester: Virat Kohli, the fearless batsman and captain he is, sees no Pakistan player as a threat.
During the pre-match press conference ahead of the big World Cup game on Sunday, Kohli was asked whether he considered any Pakistan player as a threat to his team since Mohammad Amir had destroyed their batting in the 2017 Champions Trophy final while Fakhar Zaman had also cracked a tonne.
“No player is a threat for us. It’s about going into the park as the Indian cricket team and taking on whichever team is in front of us. If we play well, we can beat any side in the world. And if we don't, then anyone can beat us. That’s how simple the game of cricket is, and it should be.”
Kohli also revealed that his team’s approach does not change just because the opponents are Pakistan.
“In our minds, nothing changes according to the opposition. We’re only focused on playing the type of cricket we’re known for, not singling out any player from the opposition or focusing more on one particular player than the other.”
The skipper does not seem to be affected by what happens outside the game. He has also guided the new faces in his team on how to tackle a tense match like against Pakistan: “One should not focus too much on what’s going on outside. It is important to understand that the game starts and finishes tomorrow at a given time...so it’s not going to last a lifetime for you, whether you do well or not. What is important is to remain grounded and focused. Whether we do well as an individual or a team, the tournament will go on.”
Advice to fans
What will his advice to fans who do not consider India-Pakistan match as any other cricket match?
“I can’t tell the fans to think of the game in a particular manner. We are professionals, so we can’t get too emotional or too excited with any occasion that we play in. So the mindset of the player is always going to be different from the fans. One cannot mix the two.
"You can’t expect the fans to think in a professional manner - focusing on each ball. Our attention span has to be very precise on the field because we have that split second to make a decision. But from the fans’ point of view, looking at the atmosphere and frenzy around the game, I would say it isn’t easy to think like a player.”
For Kohli, it is just another game in front of a full stadium.
“In a World Cup, we will have full stadiums in every game - so it’s not going to be drastically different here from the other games. From the fans’ point of view, it will be very different. They should enjoy the atmosphere, enjoy the occasion the way they want to and the way it’s been enjoyed for years. But our mindset remains the same. We go out there and execute what we’re expected to because that is a responsibility and people expect us to play a certain way.”
Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur, meanwhile, has reminded his players that the match against India is the one they should perform at their best in order to clinch a place in history.
“Your careers are going to be defined by a moment in the game. You do something incredible tomorrow, you’ll be remembered forever,” is what he reminded his players.
Responding to a query whether the Old Trafford tickets could have been sold out 20 times as 500,000 people wanted to be here to watch the action, he said: “I don’t want to say it’s the biggest rivalry in sport, but I saw some stats which said that the soccer World Cup final attracted 1.6 billion viewers. Tomorrow it is likely to get 1.5 billion. It doesn’t get bigger than that. It doesn’t get more exciting.”
The Pakistan coach is aware that his team hasn’t played the perfect game so far. “We are yet to play to our potential. Our disciplines have been good with the bat, have been okay with the ball and okay in the field. So if we put the perfect game together, we can beat anybody, and we’re confident of that.”