LONDON - Skipper Virat Kohli has urged India to produce a repeat of their Pakistan demolition when they face Sri Lanka in the Champions Trophy on Thursday.

Kohli’s side made a memorable start to the tournament as the defending champions crushed arch-rivals Pakistan by 124 runs in Birmingham on Sunday.

After India piled up 319-8 in 48 overs, they turned the screw on Pakistan, dismissing them for 164 as they failed to chase down a rain-reduced target of 289. It was the perfect response to reports of a rift between India captain Kohli and the team’s coach Anil Kumble. Kohli knows momentum can change quickly in ODI competitions, especially against a desperate Sri Lanka team looking to bounce back from defeat to South Africa in their opener.

But Kohli hopes the confidence boost from beating Pakistan will help India secure another victory in their second Group B match. “Every game in this tournament is big, but we have a side with a few youngsters coming in and gradually getting towards strengthening their careers for India,” he said. “So I think from that, from the team’s point of view, it’s a massive win for us.”

It was not the result alone that made the young captain happy. “Just the way we played and the confidence we showed throughout the game was something that was very pleasing to see as a captain,” he said. “Even though we lost the toss, guys were raring and ready to go, willing to take up the pressure. That gave all of us the confidence to start striking the ball well, but initially the openers gave us a good start as well. As I said, it’s a clinical performance from us, from the team’s point of view, yes, it is indeed a very big win.”

Kohli, with 81 not out off 68 balls, and Yuvraj Singh, named man-of-the-match for a rapid 53, both battered the Pakistan attack after Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan laid the platform for a big total with an opening stand of 136. A repeat of that batting blitz against Sri Lanka at The Oval would put India on course for the semi-finals and Kohli expects Yuvraj to lead the charge again.  “After I got to 50, I wasn’t able to play freely. And Yuvraj came in and just took all the pressure off me,” he said. “The way he batted, only he can strike the ball like that. I think that really deflated the opposition. His innings was a difference in the game.”

Beaten by 96 runs by South Africa, there is no margin for error for Sri Lanka as they try to avoid elimination. Adding insult to injury, Sri Lanka were later found guilty of a slow over-rate offence by the ICC, with their stand-in captain Upul Tharanga banned for their next two matches, and players fined.

Angelo Mathews is set to resume captaincy duties after returning to fitness from the calf muscle injury that ruled him out of the South Africa match. “The whole team is responsible. Whoever the captain is, we have to back him and try to support him in the field,” said Mathews. “The captain has to do so many other things and stuff to work on. We have addressed in the past as well, but it cropped up again. It’s so unfortunate to see Upul going out as he is a crucial player in our set up. He batted well against South Africa and it’s so disappointing. This cannot happen again.”

Mathews will play the match against India, having recovered sufficiently from his calf injury to bat. In the event he bowls at all, however, it is unlikely he will deliver his full complement of overs. Though Mathews' batting is his foremost suit, he is also often one of Sri Lanka's main bowlers, even delivering new-ball spells on occasion.

"The injury is much better now," Mathews told ThePapare.com. "I could have probably played the last game, but there was a chance of risk, so the management and the selectors decided that I shouldn't play. But I'm fully fit now. I won't be bowling, but I'm fully fit to play as a batsman." Mathews' return will be a substantial boost to Sri Lanka, who have had to play ODIs without him since August last year, thanks to a string of leg injuries. It will also help ease the loss of Upul Tharanga, who is now unavailable for the remainder of the group stages due to an over-rates suspension.

The whole team was responsible for taking more than four hours to deliver their 50 overs on Saturday, Mathews said.

"It is a big loss, and there's no excuses. You need to try and support the captain on the field. Rather than him planning to bowl the 50 overs in that time, the others have to look after that and the captain has to get on with the game and make decisions in the middle."

 

 

 

 

Agencies