India skipper Virat Kohli has reiterated the need for his men to be ‘absolutely professional’ as they get ready to lock horns with arch-rivals Pakistan in a 2019 ICC World Cup clash at Manchester on Sunday.
Emotions are set to run high at Old Trafford with the two sides coming into the clash in the backdrop of a worsening political climate between the subcontinent neighbours. Tensions continue to run high since the suicide-bombing attack on an Indian army convoy in Pulwama, Kashmir at the start of the year which claimed 40 lives.
Since then, relations between the two countries have been on a downward spiral with several fans even calling for a boycott of the World Cup clash before the start of the tournament.
“I think the best way to approach something like this, if one focuses too much on what’s going on the outside, it’s to understand that the game starts tomorrow at a certain time and it finishes at a certain time,” Kohli said on the eve of the much-awaited clash.
“So it’s not going to last a lifetime for you, whether you do well or you don’t.
“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. For the players, it’s very, very crucial to be absolutely professional.”
The momentum is very much with India for Sunday’s clash with the Men in Blue arriving in Manchester on the back of two wins and one no-result. Pakistan, on the other hand, are in desperate need of a win with just one victory to show for from their four games so far.
While India have prevailed in all six previous World Cup meetings with Pakistan, they will be wary of their 2017 Champions Trophy final defeat against the same opponents in England itself. Then, a superb century from Fakhar Zaman and a terrific opening spell from Mohammed Amir had sealed a thumping 180-run win for the Men in Green.
Kohli, however, is treating the game like any other and refused to pinpoint a particular threat from the Pakistan side.
“We’re not focusing on the opposition, so for us no one’s a threat. For us, no one player matters more than the other,” Kohli stated.
“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.”
India have some tinkering to do in their playing XI for Sunday’s clash with opener Shikhar Dhawan sidelined with a fractured thumb. With KL Rahul set to move to an opening role, Kohli needs to make a call between Vijay Shankar and Dinesh Karthik for the No4 slot.
However, with the threat of rain looming large on Sunday, Kohli is keeping his options open for now.
“We can’t be rigid in our approach because, if the conditions are very different from what we played in the last game, then we’ll have to think of different combinations, ” he said.
“If the length of the game is going to be full and we expect the game to be 50 overs both sides, then we’ll probably think of another combination, but we’ll have to be flexible.”
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