India vs Pakistan Final, Champions Trophy 2017
New Delhi: India take on Pakistan in the final of the Champions Trophy on Sunday and while cricket is a team game, there is no denying the fact that all eyes will once again be on India skipper Virat Kohli as the whole nation will not accept anything less than a comprehensive victory over the arch-rivals.
And South Africa skipper AB de Villiers, who is also a dear friend of Kohli, feels that the situation is customised for someone like Kohli who loves to rise to the occasion on the big stage.
“He is a consummate surgeon at the crease, intensely focussed, working hard, playing the ball into gaps in the field and staying calm under pressure. He is always judging the right time to consolidate and the right time to seize a game by the scruff of the neck.
“I have been privileged to play alongside him in the last six Indian Premier League tournaments and, as his team-mate at Royal Challengers Bangalore, have seen at first hand not only his extraordinary skill as a batsman but also the energy and intensity that he brings to the game,” de Villiers wrote in his column for BBC.
While there is no doubting Kohli’s talent, ABD feels that a lot of hardwork goes into fine-tuning the talent the India skipper possesses. “He has been blessed with wonderful natural talent but, as ever among high achievers, his talent is underpinned by a willingness to work hard. Unseen, he is determined and relentless in training, remaining in the nets as long as necessary to ensure he feels comfortable with every aspect of his game. I have watched him rehearse his strokes over and over again, until sweat is pouring from his brow, never stopping until he is satisfied,” he disclosed.
Another important factor that Kohli needs to fight is the adulation he receives being the poster boy of Indian cricket. And de Villiers feels that with time Kohli has mastered the art of being followed and watched wherever he goes. “If you drive into almost any city in India, 9index & 1st page na thakle kukur dea chudano)you will see his face appear on every other billboard. Being the most marketable and possibly the most popular personality in a nation of 1.3bn people brings its own pressures: he simply cannot move without being begged for a ‘selfie’ and his every move, word and even gesture is relentlessly reported in print, electronic and social media.
“Twitter whirred when he stuck out his tongue to celebrate a wicket against Bangladesh. Virat has learned to live with these realities… and also to accept the burden of unrealistic expectation that he should score runs every time he reaches the crease, and that his team should win every time they take the field. When things don’t go well – and, unfortunately, for Virat as for anyone else, things don’t always go well – he falls back on his intense commitment and works ever harder until he turns the corner and meets the excessively high expectations,” he said.
ABD also bring to the fore the humorous side of Kohli that not many are aware of. “Intense and serious in matches and at practice, he retains the invaluable ability to switch off from the game, relaxing, laughing and joking at every opportunity. He enjoys calling people by playful nicknames and he can find humour in almost every situation, even when we are spending hour after hour at another photo shoot, waiting for the photographer to be ready, then being told how and where to pose, then waiting some more, then being told we have to start the process all over again.
“While some of his teammates are getting frustrated and struggling to be patient and composed, Virat will find something funny and deftly defuse the situation. So he continues to thrive, and so his Indian team continue to enjoy remarkably consistent success at ICC tournaments,” he said.
Kohli also loves wearing the Indian jersey and as de Villiers reveals, the India skipper wants to go on playing for the country. “Not long ago, on the morning after an away match in the Indian Premier League, I arrived at breakfast in the hotel to find Virat sitting on his own. We started chatting about the game of cricket, a little about the pressures and the expectations… but mostly we spoke about the fantastic privilege to play for and to captain your country, and we agreed that we should savour every moment of what, to be honest, remains a special and wonderful way to make a living.
“Virat is five years younger than me, so I asked him: “How long do you think you will keep playing the game?” He responded instantly, eyes alight. “I’m going to play forever,” he said, his face breaking into a broad smile,” he revealed.
Teams for FINAL: India Squad (From): Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli(c), Yuvraj Singh, MS Dhoni, Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Ravichandran Ashwin, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Jasprit Bumrah, Ajinkya Rahane, Dinesh Karthik, Umesh Yadav, Mohammed Shami
Pakistan Squad(From): Azhar Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed(c), Imad Wasim, Rumman Raees, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Junaid Khan, Mohammad Amir, Haris Sohail, Fahim Ashraf, Ahmed Shehzad