Defending champions India started their ICC Champions Trophy 2017 campaign on a high as they thrashed arch-rivals Pakkstan in their opening match. With the team just one win away from sealing a semi-final berth, India captain Virat Kohli made his intent clear that he wants his men to be ruthless against Sri Lanka when both sides clash against each other on Thursday at the Oval.
Backed by some solid batting and bowling displays, India decimated Pakistan by 124 runs on Sunday and will now look to carry the momentum forward against Sri Lanka, who lost their first match against South Africa by a huge margin on 96 runs.
On the eve of the match, Kohli said he wants his players to be ruthless in their approach.
"We are playing good cricket and we certainly know that as a team. As a team, we do not focus on the negatives and neither do we focus on the praises. We try to maintain the same kind of intensity and momentum regardless of how we are playing and at the moment we are playing some good cricket. But that doesn't mean that we play with arrogance, we respect every opposition the same way and we intend to play the same kind of cricket against everyone," Kohli said at the pre-match press conference on Wednesday.
The 28-year-old admitted that despite of being the favorites, India are not ready to take Sri Lanka lightly. Kohli also said that his players have identified the mistakes they did against Pakistan and have addressed the issues.
"It is a tournament of the top-eight sides in the world and Sri Lanka have done well in the ICC tournaments if you see their record over the years. So, they have got talent in their team. No doubt about that. They are a young team as well. They are going through a transition phase but they have sort of players that can deliver match-winning performances on their day."
"I was not happy with our fielding against Pakistan. In a tournament like this, we have to plug the holes. We have addressed the issues from the last match. We have asked the guys to be ruthless and finish games off," he said.
Unlike the past, India are now a force to reckon with in terms of their bowling department and possess one of the best attacks in the world with some genuine fast bowlers and two top quality spinners in their arsenal.
Kohli said it feels great to have a bowling unit which can intimidate the opposition batsmen.
"It feels good too see that we now have 4-5 bowlers who change the game at any point of time with their skills. This also give confidence to the batsmen. Because they know that the bowlers will bowl well. If you can bat well, the match goes your way. That makes a bigger difference in Test cricket when you have bowled out an opposition quickly and give your batsmen a lot of time in the middle.
"The bowlers are then well-rested and can come back to finish games quickly. In limited-overs cricket, batsmen can still win you matches on their own. We are in a great position and from what I have seen of them, the bowlers' career graphs will go up. It feels nice to see the other batsmen feel intimidated by our bowlers," he said.
The Indian captain also revealed the reason for not including Mohammed Shami against Pakistan.
"Shami hasn't played 50-over cricket for a long time and I am glad that he bowled really well in the first few warm-up games. But I felt Umesh, Bhuvneshwar and Bumrah had much more match practice and the performances to back that up. A bowler like Shami will always be in your set up, we know about his abilities and he is a sort of a guy who can win you games in any form of cricket. So, he is feeling his way back into the groove and he is certainly an asset for the team," he said.
Young all-rounder Hardik Pandya has been an impressive performer for India in recent times and the 23-year-old from Baroda found a special mention in Kohli's address. Kohli said Hardik, with the kind of talent and skill he owns, can go on to become one of the most accomplished Indian cricketers in future.
"Hardik Pandya is a real asset to Indian cricket. It is very hard to find a guy who can touch 140k and who strikes the ball the way he does. Plus he can bat through the innings as well... we saw that in the warm-up game. He has played a few good innings in the first-class circuit as well. It is very hard to find people with that kind of ability. If you have a player like that you need to make sure that he is always committed, always to give his 100 per cent for the team and that comes naturally to Hardik.
"So, you don't need to motivate him any further in any other way. People should appreciate his skill and what he brings to the table. If he gets the support, he can go down as one of the most accomplished Indian cricketers in the times to come. The kind of balance he brings into the team is priceless," he said.