Handling pressure, not conditions, the challenge at the World Cup: Kohli

Monitoring Desk

MUMBAI: Handling the “pressure is the most important thing” at the World Cup, stressed Virat Kohli ahead of the Indians’ pre-departure press interaction. India go to the World Cup in England and Wales in good cheer despite a 3-2 reversal at home against Australia in their last series – they have a well-rounded side and are ranked No. 2 in the ICC’s ODI rankings. Though they are one of the few teams that has not reached the UK yet, the captain feels coping with the conditions wouldn’t be too difficult.

“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 the tournament like the World Cup,” Kohli 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 to Test cricket. Pressure is the most important thing in the World Cup and not necessarily the conditions. “Secondly, all the bowlers in the squad, even during the IPL they were bowling themselves to be in the zone for 50-over cricket. And we saw the guys bowling – no one looked tired or fatigued after bowling four overs. They were fresh. The ultimate goal is to be fit for the 50-over format and not let their fitness come down and that was communicated before the IPL.”

Coach Ravi Shastri, meanwhile, called on the players to strive for consistency and play to potential, which, he said, should ensure that the World Cup comes to India for a third time.

“As far as this tournament is concerned, it’s an opportunity. If you look at this team, what they have done over these five years, they have played brilliant cricket,” he said. “It’s about striving for that consistency and not playing any differently just because it’s a World Cup. “World Cup might be a stage but that stage is to be enjoyed. The most important thing is get out there and enjoy the World Cup and if you play to the potential the cup might be here.”

India play two official warm-up games – against New Zealand on May 25 and against Bangladesh on May 28 – before their campaign in the main tournament begins with the game against South Africa on June 5. It’s a tough start for the Indians, who then have fixtures lined up against Australia (June 9) and New Zealand (June 13) before the big one: India v Pakistan, on June 16.

“The good thing is that every game has a decent gap between each other. From that point of view, I don’t think that 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. “So the best thing is that we’ll have four tough games straight up and that will set the tone nicely for us.

“Everyone has to be at their best intensity from the first match onwards and 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% match intensity and start from there and start building from there.

“This is the challenge – 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. So 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.”