Hours before the Men in Blue would embark on their mission to reclaim the World Cup after eight years, India captain Virat Kohli underlined the format of the 10-team extravaganza as one of the biggest challenges for his team.
“It is probably the most challenging World Cup of all the three that I have been a part of because of the format. [And] Looking at the strengths of all the sides as well. If you look at an Afghanistan from 2015 to now, they are a completely different side,” Kohli, with his trusted ally in head coach Ravi Shastri seated next to him, said at the Indian team’s pre-departure media interaction at the BCCI headquarters.
Play the best cricket
“Any team can upset anyone on their day. That’s one thing we have in mind. The focus will be to play the best cricket we can and if we live up to our skills and our standards that we have set for ourselves, we will probably be on the right side of the results more often. That’s going to be the key.
“Every game you have to play to the best of your potential because it’s not a group stage any more, it’s just playing everyone once. I think it’s a great thing to have for any team.
“It’s going to be a different challenge and something that every team will have to adapt very quickly.”
With the World Cup in England reverting to the 1992 format, with all the participating teams playing each other in the league stage before the top four move into the semifinals, every team would be required to be consistent in order to make it to the knockouts.
Shastri, who featured in the 1992 edition, agreed with Kohli’s assessment.
“Very challenging, like Virat mentioned, any team can beat any team on a given day… It is a strong competition,” Shastri said. “… The good thing though is there are those nine games, rather than just three or four games where you have to be on the ball from the outset.”
With the ODI rules favouring batsmen much more than earlier and the ICC’s push for preparing flatter pitches for big-ticket events, Kohli expected “quite a few high-scoring games” in England over the next two teams. Shastri said that it was up to India’s batsmen to assess the conditions quickly and adopt a cautious approach.
“Our mantra will be to be flexible according to the condition. Because it is one country in the world, the pitches could be flat but if the overcast conditions change, we have to be up for it.
“Any other country, this wouldn’t have mattered but in England it does. In London you might not face that issue but if you go up north and when it does get overcast, you can see things happening. You have to be ready for that,” Shastri said.
India’s contingent is set to depart for England on Wednesday early morning. While the tournament will start on May 30, India will open its campaign against South Africa on June 5.