India captain Virat Kohli has said handling pressure at the World Cup will be the most important thing and the team will have to play every game with the same intensity as competition is going to be tough.
“Pressure is the most important thing in the World Cup and not necessarily the conditions,” he said prior to the team’s departure on Tuesday. “White-ball cricket, playing in England, playing an ICC tournament, the conditions are not that different or that difficult, I would say, compared with Test cricket.”
Kohli, who won the World Cup in 2011 as a youngster and was also an integral part of India’s 2015 campaign, said it would be the most challenging one for him personally.
“Personally, it will probably be the most challenging World Cup I have been part of because of the format and also the strength of all the teams. If you look at Afghanistan from 2015 to now, they are a completely different side,” said Kohli.
“Any team can upset anyone. That is one thing we have in mind. Focus will be on to play the best cricket that we can. You have to play to the best of your potential in every game because it is not a group stage situation,” he said.
On the team’s departure for English shores on Wednesday, Kohli said, “It’s always good to go to any place in advance. It does get rid of all the nerves you have in the side going into a tournament like the World Cup.”
India will play two official warm-up games — against New Zealand on May 25 and Bangladesh on May 28 — before taking on South Africa on June 5. The two-time champions will then face Australia (June 9) and New Zealand (June 13) before locking horns with arch-rivals Pakistan on June 16.
“The good thing is the decent gap between two games. From that point of view, I don’t think the players will burn out even if we have intense games. We will always have time to regroup and go for the next,” Kohli said.
For the first time since the 1992 edition, all teams will play each other once to decide the semi-finalists. “Playing everyone once is great for all the teams in my view. It is going to be a different challenge and everybody will have to adapt quickly to,” Kohali said.
The Indian captain said, we would have four tough games straight up and that would set the tone for the team. “Everyone has to be at their best intensity from the first match. We don’t have any room for complacency. That’s why it’s the World Cup, that’s why it’s the most important tournament in the world. We expect that kind of a pressure from the first second. We’re not even going to let ourselves think that maybe the first week onwards we’ll get into it.
“You have to arrive on the day, match ready, absolutely 100 per cent match intensity and start from there and start building from there.”
Comparing it with football, Kohli said, “If you look at all the top-class clubs in the world, like in football, they maintain their intensity for three-four months in the Premier League, or in the La Liga. If we get on a roll and if we maintain consistency then we should be able to do it for the length of the tournament.”
On the 300-plus scores in almost every game of the recent series between Pakistan and England, Kohli said things could change in the quadrennial tournament. “As I said the pitches are going to be very good. It is summer and the conditions are going to be nice. We expect high scoring games, but a bilateral series can’t be compared with a Word Cup. It’s very different.”
On the conditions and target scores, Kohli said, “We might also see 260-270 kind of games and teams defending that because of the pressure factor. We expect all kinds of scenarios in the World Cup.”
Stating that his highly-rated bowling line-up is ready for the challenge, the Indian captain said, “The ultimate goal at the back of their mind (during IPL) was to be fit for the 50-over format and not necessarily let the fitness come down. This was communicated to them before the IPL started.”
“We saw the guys bowling — no one looked tired or fatigued after bowling four overs. They were fresh,” he remarked.
Reflecting on his IPL experience as RCB captain, Kohli said, “We literally came to a point where we said to each other that ‘this has not happened to anyone before’. I realised after a certain stage things are not in your control. You have to accept that and work things accordingly.” The RCB had lost their first six games.
Most important thing, he said, “is even you are in a situation where it’s a must-win game, you can’t think in your room the day before ‘what if you don’t, what might happen or not’. You just have to arrive on that day and play to the best of your potential.”
On the Pakistan game, Kohli said: “We have to play to our potential. We can’t play thinking about any particular team. We have to maintain our intensity irrespective of the opposition throughout the tournament,” the 30-year old said.