Virat Kohli, India’s captain, said on Saturday that his team will face a “very strong” Pakistan team in their Twenty20 World Cup opener, downplaying their unbeaten record against their opponents.
India has defeated Pakistan in all 12 of their T20 and 50-over World Cup matches.
“We never discussed our record or past performance,” Kohli told reporters on the eve of the highly anticipated match in Dubai on Sunday.
“Things like this create distractions.” What matters, regardless of the opposition, is how we prepare and execute on that particular day.”
Regardless of their past dominance, Pakistan is and has always been stacked with talented players, according to Kohli.
“Pakistan, in my opinion, is a very strong team and has always been a strong side,” he said.
“You have to give it you’re all against them because they have a lot of talent and players who can change the game.”
Pakistan, led by Babar Azam, will look to break their World Cup jinx against India, who have won all five encounters in T20’s showpiece event.
Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan, and Fakhar Zaman are the team’s key hitters, while quicks Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali lead a potent bowling attack.
Despite Hardik Pandya’s struggles with his bowling, Kohli believes his team’s match-winners will shine in the tournament. “He is getting better in terms of getting ready to bowl two overs for us,” Kohli said.
“What he brings to the number six spot is something that cannot be created overnight, and thus I was always in favor of backing him in Australia solely as a batter.”
“When he’s in full flow, he can take the game away from the opposition.”
Pandya rose to prominence as India’s top all-rounder after making his white-ball debut in 2016, but a string of back injuries derailed his career, forcing him to undergo back surgery two years ago.
The pace bowler did not bowl for Mumbai Indians in the second leg of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the United Arab Emirates.
However, Kohli believes that the attacking batsman is an asset to the team in the shortest format.
“We recognize the value he brings to the team as a number six batter,” Kohli said.
“If you look around in world cricket, there are specialists who do that job, and it is very important to have that guy, especially in T20 cricket.”
“He is motivated and eager to start giving us a couple of overs, and obviously, when that happens, the balance improves even more.”
“But we are pretty confident how we are heading into the start of this tournament.
The tournament is Kohli’s final as captain of the national T20 team, but he has refused to comment further on the matter.
“Our focus in this World Cup is to play well and do what we need to do as a team,” he said.
“I have explained myself completely” (on Twitter). If people believe there is more to it, I pity them.”