BIRMINGHAM: India captain Virat Kohli is adamant the title-holders will not be taking Bangladesh for granted in a Champions Trophy semi-final at Edgbaston on Thursday.
After a surprise group defeat by Sri Lanka in a tournament featuring the world’s top eight one-day international sides, India responded to the pressure of a ‘must-win’ clash against South Africa with a commanding eight-wicket victory over the top-ranked Proteas at the Oval last weekend — a match where Kohli’s unbeaten 76 helped him regain first place in the ODI batting rankings.
India thrashed Bangladesh by 240 runs in a warm-up match at the Oval last month, a fixture where the Tigers collapsed to 84 all out.
Now India are returning to an Edgbaston ground where they launched their title-defence with a 124-run hammering of arch-rivals Pakistan.
Kohli, speaking before a revitalised Pakistan clinched their place in the final with a shock eight-wicket win over England in Cardiff on Wednesday, warned: “There are no guarantees in this sport.
“As we’ve seen, a lot of teams have surprised the opposition and we’re certainly not taking anything for granted.”
The star batsman added: “Going into a big game like this, we’re going to treat it as how we treated the last game. Our mindset does not differ.”
Bangladesh sealed their place in the last four with an impressive five-wicket victory over New Zealand in Cardiff.
They were looking at an embarrassing defeat when they slumped to 33 for four but Shakib Al Hasan (114) and Mahmudullah (102 not out) turned the match around with a brilliant new Bangladesh record stand of 224.
– ‘Passion’ –
Kohli said this proved the days when Bangladesh were ‘easy beats’ had long gone.
“They are a very dangerous side on their day and everyone realises that,” he said. “Bangladesh have taken huge strides.
“They have cricketers who are skilled, who are committed to play for Bangladesh and play with a lot of passion.
“They’re really keen to win a lot of games at this level and that shows in their attitude
“Even the other day I thought they were outstanding in the way they applied themselves and chased (New Zealand’s) total down.
“They showed a lot of composure and patience, and that is always a sign of a side that is mature now, that knows how to win matches from difficult situations.”
Bangladesh have suffered their fair share of heartache against India.
They lost to them in a World Cup quarter-final two years ago and India were also the opponents when Bangladesh, needing two runs to win off three balls, somehow lost three wickets instead as they were beaten in Bangalore to be eliminated from last year’s World Twenty20.
Bangladesh captain Mashrafe Mortaza was the skipper for both these defeats but he insisted his side carried no scars ahead of their first appearance in a major semi-final.
“People count only winning, that’s for sure, but I think if you look at both matches, I think we played at our best,” said the veteran paceman.
“Yes, India played also at their best, that’s why they won. But still, I believe we have a lot more to do in that level.
“We are playing overseas, and we are (having) success. That’s more important for us, that our cricket is going to improve.”
Mortaza added: “Obviously we have been disappointed, especially in India T20 World Cup we couldn’t go through. It happens sometimes in cricket, but we forget it.”
Bangladesh may have a fanatical following, but Mortaza insisted all the pressure was on their opponents given how supporters in cricket-crazy India would expect Kohli’s men to tame the Tigers.
“We’re playing the first time in our life in a semi-final, so that is a fact, but also if it’s pressure, I think India have got more pressure than us because the huge population is there, and people love cricket in India a lot,” he said.