India captain Virat Kohli paid trubute to Pakistan’s “magnificent turnaround” after his Champions Trophy title-holders booked a place in the final against their arch-rivals.
Kohli’s men overwhelmed Bangladesh by nine wickets at Edgbaston on Thursday, a day after Pakistan had seen off England by eight wickets in an almost as lopsided semi-final at Cardiff.
India launched their title-defence with a 124-run thrashing of Pakistan at Edgbaston 11 days ago.
But following what coach Mickey Arthur labelled a “shambolic” display, Pakistan recovered to beat South Africa, the top-ranked team in this eight-nation one-day international tournament.
They then held their nerve to seal a three-wicket win over Sri Lanka in a virtual quarter-final in Cardiff on Monday before dominating a previously unbeaten England.
Asked if he had any thoughts on a final between the Asian giants, Kohli, to a chorus of laughter at a post-match news conference, answered: “No sir.”
But Kohli’s respect for the way Pakistan had hauled themselves off the canvas was evident.
– ‘Belief’ –
“I’ve been very impressed,” said Kohli.
“The turnaround has been magnificent. Obviously if you reach the finals you have to play some good cricket, and credit to them (Pakistan), they’ve turned things around for themselves really well.
“They’ve beaten sides that looked really strong against them, but the belief they showed on the field, the way they played together as a team…You know, regardless of who you play in the finals, it’s always going to be challenging because once you start thinking that it’s a big game, then your mindset changes,” the star batsman added.
“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 (Pakistan) have.”
But Kohli said there would be drastic change of game-plan after a semi-final where, having won the toss, he saw his attack restrict Bangladesh to an inadequate 264 for seven.
India cruised to victory, finishing on 265 for one with nearly 10 overs to spare.
Rohit Sharma was 123 not out and Kohli, the world’s top-ranked ODI batsman, 96 not out in an unbroken stand of 178.
“I don’t know there’s much that we need to change as a team,” said Kohli, a member of the India side that beat England in the 2013 Champions Trophy final at Edgbaston.
“I think if we focus on our skills and our abilities and believe in ourselves, we’ll give ourselves a chance to do some good things for the team.”
Someone who did plenty of good for India’s cause on Thursday was Kedar Jadhav.
The back-up off-spinner took two for 22 in six overs, removing Bangladesh top-scorers Tamim Iqbal (70) and Mushfiqur Rahim (61).
The duo put on 123 for the third wicket but Bangladesh’s innings never recovered after they were both out.
Jadhav’s bowling was all the more useful on a day when frontline spinner Ravichandran Ashwin went wicketless.
Afterwards the ungainly Jadhav bristled at suggestions he was a ‘part-time’ bowler.
“Before this game I had six wickets and most of them are pure batsmen…it’s not like I have been getting out bowlers,” he insisted.
Spinners and wicket-keepers have long worked closely together and Jadhav said India gloveman MS Dhoni had played a key role in his development.
“He provides me with all the knowledge that he has,” explained Jadhav of the input he had received from the former India captain.
“Even while I am bowling he is looking at me and from his eyes only I can tell what he wants me to bowl,” he added.