India captain Virat Kohli feels that the difficult Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign with Royal Challengers Bangalore this season taught him to realise his limitations as a human being and sometimes take a backward step to balance things out.
Kohli was in Mumbai on Wednesday to interact with the media before the team's departure to England for the Champions Trophy. The Indian captain fielded questions on the preparations for the blue riband event starting on 1 June, the marquee India versus Pakistan clash slated on 4 June and what the takeaways were from a disastrous IPL season.
"After the kind of season we have had, it teaches you about yourself as a person at a few levels. From the mindset point of view, it made me realise that you can't possibly do everything in every game. As a human being you need to understand your limitations. Sometimes you need to take a backward step. It was so bizarre, anything we were trying were going against us. I never experienced that in a side. Not 11, but all 15 guys in the squad were in the same mindset. Maybe it was to teach me that you need to balance things out and take a backward step in how much you can do on the field," the Indian captain said.
"You don't want to burn out too quickly. I was pretty fortunate that I got an opportunity to face that kind of a time. It teaches you a lot as a captain. You take a lot away from failures and that is something I have always cherished," he added.
Asked if the IPL had served as proper preparation for the Champions Trophy, Kohli said that there were not a lot of similarities between the two formats, but it helped players to be match-ready. "IPL, being a high competitive tournament, allows you to play against world-class players from all the teams. I think it could be the most competitive game you could be a part of before something like Champions Trophy," Kohli pointed out.
India will be defending the Champions Trophy this year, having won the last edition in 2013 by beating England by a slender margin of five runs in a rain-curtailed match at Edgbaston. What are the challenges that the team may face in their defence of the title?
"The first challenge is not to think about the fact that we are defending the title. When we went there the last time, we just wanted to enjoy ourselves as a young unit and then ended up winning the tournament and creating a team which has done so well so far, but from that team as well, there have been a few changes. So right now the mindset is very similar — to go out and enjoy our cricket, which we have done in the past couple of years," the mercurial batsman said.
The Indian skipper also underlined the importance of being ruthless. "Ruthlessness is something that we definitely speak about all the time. If we can think in such a manner, you would get the results more often than not," he said.
Kohli also emphasised that among the current squad MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh know the most about building a team's innings, or steering it out of difficult situations.
"What was heartening to note in the last series too was that both were playing freely and enjoying batting with each other. When two of the best batsmen in the side play with such freedom, it is good to see, and it boosts the team's confidence. If two such players are in such a good mindset, the outlook of the team becomes something else. They are two of our two strongest pillars, and the better their mindset, the better it would be for the team," Kohli averred.
The Indian skipper, however, did not want to treat the Champions Trophy as a tour to redeem his complete failure with the bat in the Test series in England in 2014.
"I feel you improve as a cricketer in every series that you play. Sometimes things are not in our hands but the atmosphere around us is built in a way that it becomes a life or death kind of a series, especially for sub-continental cricketers, which I don't understand why... I don't believe in those things. I would never play for redemption. My only motivation is to keep winning games for my country," Kohli opined.
He also refused to give undue importance to the India versus Pakistan clash. The two teams have not been playing bilateral series with political tensions threatening to reach breaking point, and have only faced each other in ICC events in recent times. Kohli did not want to get embroiled in the controversy of whether the two countries should play while tensions rage along the border, but said there were no special preparations to play Pakistan, and that it is "just a game of cricket".
"As cricketers you can't even think of what is in no way under your control. As cricketers it is about playing the game we love and that feeling never changes. Yes, India versus Pakistan is always an exciting game for all the fans watching. For us, and you can ask anyone from either of the teams, it is just a game of cricket. The hype is not in our control. We prepare the same for every game. In our heads, nothing really changes, whether it is Pakistan, Australia, England, South Africa, or New Zealand. This is not the first time we will be playing against them (Pakistan). There are no special plans, and no need for special motivation," Kohli said.
He added that the biggest takeaways from the 2013 title win were the opening partnership between Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, and the way the fast bowlers bowled and the way the team fielded. "I think we were the best fielding side in the tournament back then... (I) would look to stick to the same strengths," Kohli said.
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