India has lifted an ICC Trophy five times so far, including a shared title of the Champions Trophy in 2002. It, however, has failed to defend its crown on all previous four occasions. As Virat Kohli and Co. embarked on a mission to defend the Champions Trophy title, he reminded his teammates to be ruthless, even while enjoying the game.
“I think the first challenge is not to think about the fact that we are defending the title. When we went there the last time, we just wanted to enjoy ourselves as a young unit. We ended up winning the tournament and creating a team which has done so well so far. From that team as well, there have been a few changes,” Kohli said during the a media interaction before the team’s departure for United Kingdom for the tournament, which begins on June 1.
“Ruthlessness is something we definitely speak about all the time. Even if we close a series off, we want to win it without losing a game or drawing a game as well, if possible. We go in with that mindset and that goes a long way in a tournament like this. If we can think about our games in that manner, we get the results more often than not.”
When India emerged victorious in England in 2013, the fate of Champions Trophy was unclear, with an ICC Test Championship being explored in place of the eight-team ODI event. Four years hence, the tournament has managed to retain its place on the calendar. The cricket administrators may not be convinced about the importance of the game, but according to Kohli, the players rate the tournament as highly as the World Cup.
“Because the tournament is much shorter and you have the top eight teams in the world, the competitiveness is much higher from the word go. In the World Cup, you can still have the league games and you have yourselves to get into the World Cup and then dominate in the latter half,” Kohli said. “But in the Champions Trophy, you have to be on the top of your game from game one. If you are not, your chances go down pretty soon. That’s the biggest challenge, something that all the players love playing, for sure.”
After facing New Zealand and Bangladesh in the warm-up matches, India will open its title defence with a face-off against arch-rival Pakistan in Birmingham on June 4. Despite the volatile political and security situation between the countries, Kohli said the team will treat the contest just like any other game.
“Yes, an Indo-Pak game is always exciting. For people watching in the stadium, the game is different. If you ask players from both sides, it is like any other game,” he said.