World Cup 2019, India vs New Zealand: Capturing the #MindVoice of ‘Captain Cool’ Virat Kohli
It was almost 25 minutes and Captain Kohli was all smiles for the most part, answering each question with great composure, just like the way he rotates the spinners in the middle of an innings.
Indian cricket fans almost unanimously wanted South Africa to beat Australia so that India could face “a relatively easier opponent” in New Zealand in the first semifinal. But after Kohli’s media interaction, the message is clear -- be wary of the Kiwis.
Usually, Sportskeeda’s #MindVoice is a video segment featuring cricketers. For a change, here is an attempt to bring it to our readers in text. Here’s a look at the #MindVoice of Captain Kohli before the crucial semifinal against New Zealand:
The MS Dhoni question!
Kohli has been asked frequently about Dhoni’s batting in the middle overs, but not this time. One journalist wanted to know about Dhoni, the personality in the dressing room… How about a speech for Dhoni, the way Kohli did for Sachin Tendulkar in 2011?
Captain Kohli: “Thank you (for the question). I didn't prepare that one in 2011 so I'm certainly not going to write anything down. But yeah, I'm sure everyone, if you asked them about him, they have special things to say. And especially for us who started our careers under him. For us that doesn't change. The respect will always be there because of the opportunities that he gave us and the faith that he showed in us and the way he's handled the whole team in transition over so many years.”
(The answer went on for another few minutes and has been reserved for another article, maybe after the World Cup!)
Now, on to Rohit Sharma.
We love comparisons don’t we? Rohit Sharma has five hundreds in this World Cup and Kohli doesn’t have one! It’s unusual and strange for Indian cricket followers not to see Kohli kissing his bat for nine games on the trot. Is Kohli missing the hundred?
Captain Kohli: “No, not at all. It's been a different kind of role that I've had to play in this World Cup and, as the captain of the team, I have been open to playing any kind of role that the team wants me to.
“It's great that Rohit is scoring so consistently, which means that coming in the latter half of the innings, you have to play a different role -- controlling the middle overs and letting guys like Hardik (Pandya), Kedar (Jadhav), MS in the past few games, and now Rishabh (Pant), come out and express themselves.
“So I have understood that roles can vary a lot in one-day cricket, depending on the time you step into bat, and I have been very happy holding one end and letting guys express themselves striking at 150, 160 or 200 if the team needs and I can accelerate in the end.”
Kohli went on to stress: “Personal milestones, honestly, is something that no one ever focuses on. Rohit said the same thing the other day. According to me, he (Rohit) is at the moment the top ODI player in the world.” A quote worth a headline.
What about the New Zealand bowling attack?
If there has been a bowling attack that has reduced this fabulous Indian top order to 20/3 or 18/4 in the last few months, then it has to be the New Zealand bowling attack led by Trent Boult. There is a possibility of rain interrupting the semifinal in Manchester, the wicket could be fresh, it could be overcast on the match day and they did lose to the Kiwis in the warm-up match after a top-order debacle. Here’s Kohli’s assessment of their pace attack.
Captain Kohli: “Well, according to me, our bowling attack has been up there with the best, if not the best bowling attack in the competition. I think the way we have bowled in low-scoring games, even coming back into the match when the guys have been hit, I think they have shown a lot of character.
“And the New Zealand attack has always been a very balanced bowling attack. Their pacers are very consistent. Mitchell Santner brings in a lot of control with his skills in the middle overs. So they are a team which has always been consistent. So we know that against them we'll have to be very, very disciplined, (and) at the same time we will have to play very correct cricket to score runs against them because they are bowling good lines and lengths and they know what they are doing.”
The respect King Kohli has for this New Zealand bowling attack is quiet clear.
What about the pressure? Of course, someone would ask about the pressure.
If the Indian cricket team is the most followed unit in India, the All Blacks (rugby team) are the most popular in New Zealand. A journalist, I’m assuming from New Zealand, raised this question for Kohli: “The pressure on your team to perform is immense, I guess it is similar to the NZ All Blacks team at a World Cup. How do you think Indian fans would feel if India lost at this stage in the tournament to New Zealand?”
Captain Kohli (smiles): “Exactly the way New Zealand fans would feel if they lost. It's quite natural. 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 whenever we play and we are quite used to that over the years.”
This Indian team has stood tall under pressure. They know how to hunt down targets, pull themselves out of trouble and bat oppositions out of the when needed.
Captain Kohli (continues): “I think we are equipped to react well in these situations because we know what these kind of games ... and the expectations (it) brings, so I think disappointment is equal on either side.”
Now on to the 'what ifs' of the match, past, present and future...
We love stats. What happened... when India played here last time... when India met New Zealand last time? What if India play with three seamers? At Manchester, all teams batting first have won the contest this World Cup, and so will that be the key? Why has chasing been so difficult?
Captain Kohli: “Well, it comes back to the same point, handling pressure. You make two bad decisions while you are chasing and the game goes away from you, too far to pull it back. So I assume that that is going to be the case because having been in so many chases, I understand that the pressure can be very high if you don't go with the pace of the game and then understanding the magnitude of the tournament like this, you probably are going to end up making a couple of mistakes and the opposition is not going to let you off after that. So we are not worried about the toss. It is an uncontrollable. You can't predict what is going to happen at the toss. We have to be prepared both ways and we are quite open to do that.”
Where's the sixth bowler?
Kedar Jadhav hasn’t bowled much in this World Cup. Kohli, actually, hasn’t used a sixth bowling option in a majority of the games. But it became a question after the Indian spinners -- Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav -- were taken to the cleaners by Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow. India still fielded only five bowlers for the matches against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Will we see a sixth bowler in the semifinal? It’s okay to take that risk in a league match, but in the knockouts, there is no second chance. Will Kohli and the team management review their bowling combinations ahead of the semis?
Captain Kohli: “It is quite possible. Yes, we played with five bowling options because it gives us more depth in batting. (Considering) the toss factor as well, if you are chasing a big total, then you need a bit more depth in batting. So yes, we played with five. We are up to reviewing that. Otherwise... I was just told I got Kane (Williamson) out (in the U-19 World Cup semi-final in 2008), so I can bowl any time. I'm quite a lethal bowler and can get batsmen out as long as I don’t slip on landing. (smiling).
“Yes, having said that, it's open for discussion because we need to be very balanced with who we take into the field. At the same time, we need to make sure that the battling is deep enough for us to be chasing a score and being solid about that also. Five bowlers has worked well, but it's up for discussion.”
Last-minute change in travel plans...
Towards the end of the league phase, it seemed like it was going to be an India-England contest in Birmingham, but became an India-New Zealand clash in Manchester on the last day. “How did you guys react to the last-minute change in travel plans from Leeds to Birmingham coming here?”
Captain Kohli: “We are very happy because it was only one hour compared to three hours on the bus. So 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.”
That was Captain Kohli’s #MindVoice for all of you ahead of the India-New Zealand semifinal from Manchester. It’s time for King Kohli and his men to get down to action.
Also read – World cup winners list