Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 July 2019

India v Pakistan: Virat Kohli cannot tell fans how to think of Cricket World Cup match

Captain, who admonished supporters for booing Steve Smith, concedes he can only control how team behave on Sunday

India captain Virat Kohli expects his teammates to treat every game equally, including the one against Pakistan. Aijaz Rahi / AP Photo
India captain Virat Kohli expects his teammates to treat every game equally, including the one against Pakistan. Aijaz Rahi / AP Photo

A week ago, Virat Kohli paused while playing a crucial innings against Australia to gesticulate to Indian supporters and admonish them for how they were acting.

He even apologised on behalf of them after the game, for booing opposition batsman Steve Smith.

Now, ahead of the biggest game of the tournament so far, the India captain has acknowledged he cannot tell the supporters how to think. Not, at least, when it comes to matches against Pakistan.

All he can control, he says, is the attitude he and his colleagues adopt when they line up against Indian cricket’s greatest rivals at Old Trafford on Sunday.

He wants a “clinical” display from his team. It might be easier said than done in a fixture that Aaqib Javed, a World Cup winning bowler with Pakistan in 1992, says is “more about passion than skill”. But Kohli is confident his players will be up to the task.

“I can't tell the fans to think of the game in a particular manner,” Kohli said. “For us, it is a professional approach to the game, which is most important.

“We can't get too emotional or too over excited with any occasion that we play in. So obviously, the mindset of the player is always going to be different from the fans.

“You can't mix the two. You can't expect the fans to think in a professional manner, focusing on each ball.

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"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 wouldn't say it's easy to think like a player.

“In a World Cup, we'll have full stadiums in every game. So it's not going to be drastically different at one field than any of the other games.”

Kohli believes his side can beat any team in the world if they play to their strengths, and said the conversation has not altered just because they are facing their neighbours this time around.

“We have literally discussed nothing different from the time we came to England,” Kohli said.

“The mood, 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.

“As cricketers who have been selected to play for their country, our responsibility is to treat every game equally.

"You have to be committed to play for your country every game that you play regardless of the opposition.

“For us, nothing in the change room is different. Nothing changes in our mindset. We are a top side in the world because of the cricket that we have played. We always need to remember that, and our focus is absolutely that.”

Updated: June 15, 2019 07:41 PM

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