Nagpur: With 10 wins out 11 matches, India's on-field plans have worked as per the script and star batsman Virat Kohli feels that it is imperative to maintain composure off-the field as they deal with massive expectations in their quest for a second ICC World T20 title.
"In all these major events, the skill required is how you manage yourself off the field. On the field, it's probably the safest and quietest place for you, especially playing in your home country," Kohli said at the pre-match media conference ahead of their opening encounter against New Zealand.
"Field is where you get away and is the place where you face the least pressure in big tournaments like these where you have a chance to express yourself," stated Mahendra Singh Dhoni's deputy.
"The key would be how to manage yourself away off the ground. That requires a collective effort from everyone. No one can afford to drift away. Rather than focussing on the strategy of other teams, we should rather focus on ourselves," said Kohli.
The 27-year-old agreed that with so much being written, shown and talked about, it is very difficult to ignore all that.
"It's very difficult to ignore each and everything that's been said to you. Actually, people will come up to you and say we really want you to win the World Cup. At home, we expect that and are prepared for it."
The stylish right hander agreed that the vibe and feel of a big-ticket event is completely different.
"It's a big event and the whole feel and vibe is different from a bilateral series. We all have experienced it before and the key is to learn from the past, where calmness is required in big tournaments like the ICC events because you can get carried away or be over-excited. Both these things are not great for any side going into the tournament," he added.
"Your focus can shift in terms of watching other opposition play on rest days. It's very important to stay away from all those things and focus on what your team is doing and not on whether someone is going to win or lose for you to go through. There has to be good balance," feels the Test captain.
Kohli was a part of the victorious 2011 World Cup team but on his admission was a wide-eyed youngster back then, who did not feel that kind of pressure back then.
"Obviously, I did not feel it so much as I was a youngster finding my feet and trying to contribute to the team. I saw the senior players. The way people expected things out of them. Everywhere they will get advice, suggestions, expectations and prayers. You have to soak all of that in," Kohli fondly recollected.
He welcomed the inclusion of all-rounder Hardik Pandya and pacer Jasprit Bumrah, who he thinks brought the 'X-factor' to the team and contributed significantly to its success of late.
"Like I said during the 2011 World Cup, I was anxious to prove myself and establish well. The newcomers like Bumrah and Hardik too have anxiety but they are more confident now as compared to me then. They have played a lot of IPL cricket and rubbed shoulders with big players, played IPL finals and performed in different situations.
"They have brought this confidence into this team which is good. They have backed their own skills that they do in IPL which is the X factor for our team and which has helped us a lot in the last few series.
"The sort of balance they have given, as MS himself said about Burmah's death-over bowling and with the new ball with Ashish and Pandya's strong-hitting and bowling a few overs in the middle, were very crucial which have not been highlighted.
Their contribution has been very impactful from the series against Australia."
Welcoming pace bowler Mohammed Shami's return to the team from injury and his display in the practice game against South Africa in Mumbai on March 10, Kohli said it was not for him to talk on the composition of the playing XI with his availability.
"Obviously, when he (Shami) was playing regularly for the team he s done really well for us. He's one guy who has gotten us wickets with the new ball, attacked the batsmen. Bowlers like him are always a plus in the squad we were waiting for him to come back and finding his rhythm.
"He's done that, he has come back, is finding his rhythm and bowled well in the warm up game. He's looking good. He will only get stronger and stronger. I cannot comment on the composition or combination of the squad. It's very difficult to try and change something which has won you so many games.
"But different conditions require different combinations and it s up to the captain and management to sit down and figure out what needs to be done."
Kohli said it was important for every team member to contribute, whenever or however little he's got the chance, and not get frustrated by lack of opportunities.
"The feeling that has to creep in to win major tournaments is that I am happy to contribute even 7-8 runs in three balls if my team requires me to do so. That could create a bigger impact than a guy scoring 80 and slowing down. That sort of mindset helps to stay in the zone whenever you get the opportunity," he said.
"It's difficult, but it requires in team bonding when people say I am happy to contribute to the team whatever the stage of the game is when I come in. It's easy to get desperate and want to perform yourself and get some runs under the belt and in that course you start getting desperate or become disappointed if you get out a couple of times because you got only 7-8 balls to face."
Kohli said it was up to him, at number three, and the two openers to take a strong responsibility for the team's score, either setting the target or chasing, as the middle order has not had batted on a regular basis.
"As Shikhar himself has mentioned his role is pretty clear to go out there and play his natural game and try to take on the first six overs and take on the field restrictions. Rohit and me think on the same lines of assessing the situation and seeing your partner and seeing who is hitting the ball better."
"We have been able to bring awareness when we have batted in the first 10-12 overs and helped side set totals or chased totals. It's very important to stay aware in a T20 game because you can have a rush of blood and go for a big shot and the team goes down the slide. All three of us have been able to do it collectively in the last few games."
"Obviously, it's an added responsibility for us to keep that momentum going and set up that base for the team or probably chase totals. It s the awareness we have shown in the middle that has helped us perform consistently in the past few months.
Kohli explained that while batting, one should not think too far ahead of himself and concentrate on playing each ball according to its merit.
"It's an important thing is to focus on each ball. If the focus goes here and there, the game is so fast that bouncing back becomes very difficult. It's difficult to bounce back from a bad phase. It's important to start on a positive note and maintain that momentum like we have done in the last 12 matches."
Kohli said the team was pretty confident of its chances in the tournament because of the way it has been playing of late that has seen India make a turn-around at home against Sri Lanka drub Australia away and make a storming run by winning five matches on the trot to lift the Asia Cup in Bangladesh.
"We are pretty confident with the way we are playing. We have won 10 out of last 11 games and we are taking some good momentum into the World Cup. The Asia Cup was good preparation for us, but this is going to be far more challenging. You have teams from all over the world competing.
"If you look at both the groups, the teams are very strong and evenly matched. It's going to be tough. But we would like to focus on our strengths. Opposition do not matter for us so much at this stage. Obviously, we need to understand their strengths and weaknesses, but it's more to do the way we have play. We will continue to play the same way that has brought us success."