08 July 2019
Manchester: Pundits have spoken about how playing New Zealand in the semi-final of the World Cup could be an easier challenge for Virat Kohli and boys, but the India skipper believes that every time his team walks onto the field, the pressure of expectations is the same irrespective of the team they are facing or the series they are playing.
For the Indian team, every game is full of pressure, so we have never felt like any game has been easy for us at all.
"I can't remember the last time I stepped on to the field and felt like 'It doesn't matter what happens in this game'. For the Indian team there are always full stadia and people expect you to do well, and there is always pressure, as well as opportunity. So as I said, we are well-equipped to handle those kind of situations.
"But I think a World Cup knockout game brings that much more attention and excitement on the outside and the atmosphere is going to be very different from a bilateral series. So just to be able to soak that in and focus on what we need to do is going to be probably the only challenge that we face in terms of it being different.
"But otherwise you have to play good cricket to win a game of cricket and that's been our focus this World Cup and I don't think we would change that because it's a knockout game, it is very important to treat it as a game of cricket and do what we are known to do," he said.
With the expectations come the pressure to win and Kohli said that his team is better equipped to handle that pressure as they are now used to it. He went on to add that it was no secret that not going forward from here would be a huge disappointment.
"Everyone feels disappointed when you come to a stage of a tournament like this and you don't make it through. But look, yeah, the Indian team always carries a lot of pressure and expectation wherever we play and we are quite used to that over the years to be honest.
"Yeah, we are better off -- I think we are better equipped to react well in these situations because we know what these kind of games and our fan-base and the expectations brings, so I think disappointment is equal on either side. I wouldn't agree if you said New Zealand won't be disappointed if they lose. Our aim and our focus is obviously on winning and, as I said, whichever team plays better will win," he pointed out.
India have been in the semis in both the previous occasions and while the results have been contrasting -- India won in 2011 and lost in 2015 -- Kohli said the first goal coming into this edition was to work towards qualifying for the semi-final.
"Very obviously, very contrasting. The win in Mohali was my first World Cup and we make it to the finals and playing at home and the whole atmosphere was brilliant so getting to experience that for me as a youngster was something magnificent. 2015, I was more of an established player and not being able to get the team across the line was obviously very disappointing for all of us.
"This time around, because the format has been different, and we understand the tournament has been long, guys have put in a lot of effort day in day out and to realise we have achieved the first goal that we wanted to which was to qualify for the semis, that gives you an extra boost of energy.
"Now we can focus totally on the remaining two games that we have in the tournament and try to bring our A-game and take up the intensity even more.
I think those -- that incentive is very important to realise as a team that you have done what you wanted to do as a first goal. And now you can be even more intense and energetic when you step on to the field. It gives you more energy knowing we are entering the last phase of the tournament. Bodies are not going to be as fresh but these kind of things motivate you even further to put in more energy so we are quite happy after qualifying," he explained.
Asked about the last minute change in travel plans, after India finished on top following Australia losing their last group game against South Africa on Saturday, Kohli said: "We are very happy because it was only one hour compared to three hours on the bus."
Had India come second, they would have played in Birmingham.
"So the boys are very happy with the change in travel and Manchester is a great city to be in also, so all the guys were very happy. The mood is great. Everyone is very relaxed, very confident.
"And look, all the teams worked hard to get to these moments and now whoever plays better on the day we know that things are as simple or as complicated as that. So, we are all looking forward to it.
"It's been a long tournament, it's been a lot of hard work, a lot of intense games, so yeah, we are really, really happy that we have made it to the semis and now there's only opportunity that lies in front of us and everyone is very excited for it," he said.