India's star batsman shares his candid views on the immense burden of expectations on MS Dhoni's Team India to win the World T20 that begins in Nagpur against New Zealand today
Nagpur: Mahendra Singh Dhoni & Co have everything going for them. The Men in Blue are in super form; fitness-wise too they are in excellent shape and the advantage of home conditions is a big bonus.
Relaxed & ready: Virat Kohli watches teammates during a training session on the eve of India's World T20 opener against New Zealand at the Vidarbha Cricket Association Stadium in Nagpur yesterday. Pic/AFP
Dhoni's team have dealt with the pressure of expectations from the home crowd successfully in the 2011 World Cup, but expectations have sky-rocketed this time with the team not putting a foot wrong in the last few tournaments.
When everyone — from the room service guy to the bus driver ferrying the team to the stadium — expecting nothing less than a title triumph, the pressure can be unbearable.
Senior pro Virat Kohli should know, having been part of the 2011 World Cup team.
"It's very difficult to ignore everything that's been said to you and people, who come up to you and say, 'we want you to win the World Cup.'
"At home, we expect that. We are sort of prepared for that. The skill required in all these major events is how you manage yourself off the field. On the field is probably the safest and the quietest place for you.
"The field is actually a getaway, a place where you release pressure in big tournaments like these. It's a chance to express yourself, but the key will be on how you manage yourself away from the ground. That requires a collective effort. No one can drift away and focus on the plans that opposition teams are making. It's important to focus on what we are doing," Kohli said during his pre-match press conference yesterday.
While the 2011 World Cup team had some veterans like Sachin Tendulkar, Virender Sehwag and Zaheer Khan, the current team has many youngsters. Kohli urged the young guns to view this pressure as an opportunity to rise to the occasion.
"You have to take these things as a challenge or an opportunity (rather) than pressure. I'm very happy when pressure situations or big tournaments arrive, because it gives me an opportunity to perform and make my team win. It's not a goal in terms of numbers, but it just gives you the feeling that 'I won and the team won, or I contributed, or I got the team into a situation from where we could win'.
"As a youngster, before the 2011 World Cup, I had a lot of anxiety to prove myself, establish myself. "These youngsters, Hardik (Pandya), (Jasprit) Bumrah, also have that, but these people have more confidence than what I had when I came into the team, because these guys have played a lot of T20 cricket and played with big stars in the IPL (Indian Premier League). Their preparation and mental strength is very different from when I came in," he said.
MS Dhoni India
> Openers Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma provide the perfect start
> Virat Kohli scores big
> Ashwin restricts flow of runs
Kane Williamson New Zealand
> Pacers Trent Boult and Tim Southee breakthrough early
> He and Guptill get off to a flying start
> Kohli has an off day