Pakistan’s turnaround in the Champions Trophy has been “magnificent”, said India captain Virat Kohli after his side set up Sunday’s final against their fierce rivals.
India eased to a nine-wicket win over Bangladesh in Thursday’s semi-final.
Pakistan were comfortably beaten by defending champions India in their opening game but shocked hosts England in the first semi-final on Wednesday. “They’ve turned around things for themselves really well,” said Kohli.
After that opening defeat by India, Pakistan also beat number one-ranked side South Africa and Sri Lanka in the group stages before their eight-wicket victory over England to reach Sunday’s final at The Oval.
“They’ve beaten sides that looked really strong against them, but the belief just showed on the field the way they played together as a team,” said Kohli.
Matches between India and Pakistan are the most-watched in cricket and generate some of the highest audiences in world sport, but the two sides have never previously faced each other in a global 50-over final. “Regardless of who you play in the final, it’s always going to be challenging because once you start thinking that it’s a big game, then your mindset changes,” added Kohli.
“What we are going to try to do is repeat the similar sort of cricket that we have played so far, knowing the strengths and weaknesses they have.” Rohit Sharma hit an unbeaten 123 and Kohli added 96 not out as India serenely chased 265 to beat Bangladesh.
However, Bangladesh had looked set to post a much more challenging score at 154-2, only for Kohli to turn to the part-time off-spin of Kedar Jadhav. Kohli’s decision was vindicated as Jadhav removed both Tamim Iqbal (70) and Mushfiqur Rahim (61) during a tight spell by India’s spinners but the captain admitted that Jadhav’s two wickets were “a bonus.”
“With one left-hander batting, we knew that he had the ability to get in two or three dot balls to the left-hander every over, but it ended up changing the whole game for us,” said Kohli. He added that he could not “take the whole credit” as he also turned to advice from wicketkeeper and former captain MS Dhoni. “We both decided that Kedar is a good option at the moment, and he bowled really well. He doesn’t bowl much in the nets, but he’s a smart cricketer,” added Kohli.
‘We will be better next time’
Bangladesh reached their first global semi-final thanks to victory over New Zealand in the group stages but again struggled to take wickets, having claimed just 12 in the whole tournament. Captain Mashrafe Mortaza said his side also could not keep relying on Tamim, Mushfiqur, Shakib Al Hasan and Mahmudullah for runs but added his young side will be ready to “do better” at the World Cup in 2019, also being played in England and Wales.
“We are coming up still, we need to learn so many things, but I think we need to be a little bit more ready mentally to play this sort of match,” said Mortaza.
“Once you are ready mentally, anything can be possible. I know next time the boys will learn.”