Kohli says Pakistan ‘very strong’ ahead of T20 blockbuster

Publish: 7:54 PM, October 23, 2021 | Update: 7:54:PM, October 23, 2021

DUBAI,  – India skipper Virat Kohli on Saturday said they will take on a “very strong” Pakistan team in their Twenty20 World Cup opener and downplayed their unbeaten record against their opponents. India have beaten Pakistan in all of their 12 matches at the T20 and 50- over World Cups. “We never discussed these things, about our record and past performance,” Kohli told reporters on the eve of the much-anticipated clash in Dubai on Sunday. “These things create distractions. What matters is how we prepare and execute on that particular day, regardless of the opposition.”

Kohli said regardless of their past dominance Pakistan is and always has been packed with talented players. “Pakistan, according to me is a very strong team and always has been a strong side,” he said. “You have to play your best cricket against them, because they have lots of talent and players who can change the game.” Babar Azam’s Pakistan will look to break their World Cup jinx against India, who have won all five clashes in T20’s showpiece event.

Babar, Mohammad Rizwan and Fakhar Zaman hold the team’s batting key while quicks Shaheen Shah Afridi and Hasan Ali lead a potent bowling attack. Kohli backed his team’s match winners including Hardik Pandya to come good in the tournament despite the all-rounder struggling with his bowling. “He is getting better in terms of getting prepared to bowl two overs for us,” said Kohli.

“What he brings at that number six spot is something that you cannot create overnight and hence I was always in favour of backing him in Australia as a batter purely. “He can take the game away from the opposition when he is in full flow.” Pandya emerged as India’s top all-rounder after his white-ball debut in 2016 but a spate of back injuries affected his career and he underwent back surgery two years ago. The pace bowler did not bowl in the second leg of the Indian Premier League (IPL) in the United Arab Emirates for his side Mumbai Indians.

But Kohli says the attacking batsman is an asset to the team in the shortest format. “We understand the value he brings to the team as a number six batter,”said Kohli. “In world cricket if you look around there are specialists who do that job and it is very important to have that guy specially in T20 cricket. “He is motivated and keen to start giving us a couple of overs and when that happens obviously the balance becomes even better.

“But we are pretty confident how we are heading into the start of this tournament.” The tournament is Kohli’s last as captain of the national T20 side, but he refused to speak more on the issue. “Our focus is to play well in this World Cup and do what we need to do as a team,” he said. “I have explained myself very honestly (on Twitter). If people feel there is more to it, then I feel sorry for them.”