Virat Kohli has warned India must keep their emotions under control when they face South Africa in a do or die Champions Trophy showdown on Sunday.
Kohli’s side have to win their final Group B fixture at The Oval to avoid an embarrassing exit from a tournament they went into as holders and title favourites. India find themselves in danger of missing out on the semi-finals after suffering a seven wicket defeat against Sri Lanka on Thursday.
South Africa also have one win from their two matches and can reach the last four with a victory in south London, making it a winner takes all clash. With so much at stake, Kohli says his players should relish the chance to show their best form in front of the watching world.
“As a cricketer honestly for me personally, I crave games like this,” India captain Kohli told a press conference on Saturday. “You want to be part of matches that are as important as this one and then if you perform in that and your team gets across the line, it’s a different feeling.
“It improves you as a cricketer. Everyone looks forward to games like these and everyone is very excited.” But, while Kohli believes India will thrive under pressure, the batsman doesn’t want his players to get carried away trying to be the hero of the moment.
“You need to have a good balance of being competitive, being passionate about the game, but at the same time, not getting over-excited,” he said. “The team that treats the game as normal as possible is the team that’s in a better position to get the right result.
“A lot of times, teams come in and they want to do something special and end up messing up the game in important situations. The team that can have the most composure, I would say, to sum it up, will have a better chance of winning of the game tomorrow.
“That’s what I’ve experienced in the past, and you tend to get over-excited, and then you commit errors that can cost the team important runs.”
‘You win some, you lose some’
Failing to reach the semi-finals would be a painful blow for India, especially after they raised expectations of a title triumph by routing arch rivals Pakistan in their opening match.
But Kohli insisted the South Africa clash isn’t the biggest of his reign as captain because he has been dealing with huge expectations for years.
“You guys in the media said my first match as captain was the biggest yet. Against Pakistan you said was the biggest match of my career here,” he said.
“To me, every game the same; you win some, you lose some. I never thought against Pakistan was the biggest game of my captaincy career, and I don’t think this one is, either.
“For us as a team, it’s a very important game, yes. So is the same for South Africa, as well.”
Kohli acknowledged India could do with a strong contribution from Yuvraj Singh after the powerful batsman struggled against Sri Lanka.
“He’s achieved tremendous things for India. No one has ever had any doubts over the ability that he possesses to win games for the country, and he’s done it in big tournaments,” Kohli said.
“This is a big game as well, so he might just want to use that as an extra motivation for him to be able to leave a mark on the cricketing world in his 300th game.”