Kohli bans distractions before Champions Trophy final
|ICC Champions Trophy final: Pakistan v India|
|Venue: The Oval. Date: Sunday, 18 June. Start time: 10:30 BST|
|Coverage: Highlights on BBC Two (23:15 BST), ball-by-ball Test Match Special commentary on BBC Radio 5 live sports extra; in-play highlights and text commentary on the BBC Sport website|
Virat Kohli says restricting time spent on social media is the biggest reason for his and India’s form as they prepare for a Champions Trophy final against Pakistan expected to be watched by more than one billion people.
The defending champions have hammered Pakistan, South Africa and Bangladesh en route to the final, with captain Kohli averaging 253 from four innings.
The key, Kohli says, is to avoid negativity and distractions on social media where he has a fanbase of 65.6 million people across his Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.
“Honestly, it sounds funny, but it’s so important to stay away from those things, to connect to things that matter,” said Kohli, 28.
“It’s tough, but you have to make that sort of effort to stay in a good zone and a good mindset.
“If you’re too distracted listening to too many suggestions or players or criticism, you can’t focus on what you need to think as a sportsman first to be able to lead the team and then help the others in the team, as well.
“To be able to maintain that balance nicely has been a good thing for me.”
India opened the tournament with a 124-run (DLS method) victory over Pakistan and have beaten their final opponents in their past seven meetings in ICC competitions.
Kohli, however, is wary of dismissing Sarfraz Ahmed’s team.
“I don’t see any relevance of the first game here because you can never tell how a particular team starts a tournament,” said Kohli.
“Some teams start very confidently and then they fade off. Some teams might not have the best starts, and they come back amazingly, which Pakistan have done.
“Everyone is aware of the kind of talent they have in their team, and on their day they can beat any side in the world.
“But at the same time, neither are we too intimidated nor are we too arrogant about what we are doing.”
How do Pakistan stop Kohli?
Kohli has been in sublime form in the Champions Trophy – with not-out scores of 81, 76 and 96 in India’s three victories more than compensating for a duck in defeat by Sri Lanka – so how will Pakistan stop the number one batsman in the world?
Former England spin bowler Graeme Swann believes the right-hander has no “glaring weakness” – particularly in one-day cricket.
“He’s easily the best batsman to watch in the world,” Swann told BBC Sport. “I found him to be two different animals – in one-day cricket he looked to attack and to dominate and such is his prowess against the white ball he’d get away with it.
“With the red ball, he was more circumspect and played more traditional Test innings where he waited for the bad ball so I had more success against him.
“He’s very competitive – which I like – and I enjoy him as captain. He demands excellence. He wants everyone to meet his high standards. I think he’s the best player in the world.”
James Taylor, another former England player, believes the key is to strike early.
“He can be very aggressive and dominant in the field as a captain but when I played against him he was quiet and sedate,” said Taylor.
“That’s because we were beating them and he didn’t score many runs which quite often brings out the emotion and aggression in people. It was the total opposite with Virat.
“The channel to bowl at Virat, especially with the red ball, was fifth stump and try to nick him off. His record is phenomenal though. He has all the shots in the book and the temperament to become an all-time great. He’s a global superstar.”
Amir fit to play for Pakistan
Pakistan coach Mickey Arthur confirmed pace bowler Mohammad Amir is fit to play at The Oval after missing the semi-final against England with back spasms.
It is Pakistan’s first appearance in a 50-over global final since the 1999 World Cup in England – where they were beaten by Australia – and Arthur said it would mean a lot to the country if they won.
Pakistan have not played a Test match at home since 2009 because of security issues and South Africa-born Arthur said: “I just know it’ll mean a massive amount to them. The guys, again, have been special.
“I can’t praise them enough. For us it’ll just be almost a clincher for us in terms of the brand of cricket we want to play, where we want to take the team.”
The 1992 World Cup winners had the lowest seed of eighth before the event, but Arthur added: “We came here very, very firmly of the opinion that we wanted to come here and win it.”
Former Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi, speaking to www.icc.cricket.com
I am heartened by Pakistan’s opening partnership of Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali. The two have done a fantastic job for the team at the start of the innings and one more partnership of substance can give the side the required momentum for a possible victory.
Azhar has been a revelation for me. Leading up to the tournament, his presence in the XI was questioned by many, yet he has once again displayed that he is a strong character who makes a genuine effort to adapt to different situations in a match.
If Fakhar gets out early, Azhar should take the charge and focus on minimising the dot balls – Pakistan’s batsmen need to remember that strike rotation is as important as hitting boundaries in an ODI.
I also want the cricketing world to keep a close eye on the significance of an India-Pakistan cricket match of this magnitude and what it means to the fans of the game all around.
I really hope that we see resumption of bilateral cricket between the two countries. Having captained Pakistan in the 2011 World Cup semi-final at Mohali, I know the importance of the game and how it brings the two nations to a standstill while underlining the message of peace and tolerance for each other.
I, like the rest of the world, can’t wait for the match to start. Let us hope that we see a game of epic proportions that is remembered for a long, long time.