Virat Kohli plays down hype ahead of India-Pakistan World Cup meeting
The two countries face off at Old Trafford on Sunday.
India captain Virat Kohli attempted to play down the significance of their meeting with Pakistan despite the World Cup clash being set to attract a global televised audience of around one billion viewers.
The two points on offer for a win is a mere subplot ahead of a fixture between two countries with a complex, and occasionally bloody, history with political tensions never far from bubbling to the surface.
The Board of Cricket for Control in India urged the International Cricket Council to “sever ties with countries from which terrorism emanates”, after a militant group based in Pakistan claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Kashmir which led to the deaths of 40 Indian paramilitary police four months ago.
India themselves wore camouflage caps in a recent one-day international against Australia in Ranchi in a fundraising effort following the terrorist attack.
However, relations between the two squads are said to be cordial and Kohli is insistent India will adopt the same mindset as for any other game in the tournament in what is expected to be a frenzied atmosphere.
He said: “It’s very, very crucial to be absolutely professional and beat any team you’re up against. We can’t get too emotional or too overexcited with any occasion that we play in.
“The fans’ point of view is very different. They should enjoy the atmosphere. They should enjoy the occasion the way they want to and the way it’s been enjoyed for years.
“But the players obviously have to maintain the mindset we have for years approaching any kind of game.
We can't get too emotional or too over excited with any occasion that we play in. Virat Kohli
“The atmosphere in the dressing room hasn’t changed. We understand that any game that you play for your country can be emotional, adrenaline filled, so no one game is more important or more special for us than the other.
“The most crucial thing is to focus on us as a team and what our strengths are. We believe that, if we do our strengths well, that is good enough for anyone in the world and up against anyone in the world.”
India have started the tournament in ominous form though a washout against New Zealand followed impressive wins over South Africa and Australia.
Tipping the scales in India’s favour ahead of their sold-out encounter at Old Trafford – a 26,000 capacity ground which is reported to have had 800,000 applications for tickets – is that they have won all six previous World Cup matches between the sides.
Pakistan memorably prevailed in the Champions Trophy final two years ago but Kohli is unfazed by the potential of their unpredictable opponents.
He said: “We know that they have a lot of talent in their team, but we know that, if we play well, then we play really well as a team.
“We’re not focusing on the opposition, so for us no one’s a threat. No one player matters more than the other for us. 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.”