Star batsman Virat Kohli hopes to call upon the experience of lifting the one-day World Cup at home in 2011 as India attempt to repeat that feat when the World Twenty20 gets underway on Tuesday. India will kick off the tournament-proper in front of their own fans by taking on New Zealand in Nagpur in Group 2 of the Super 10 phase.
Having not won the global showpiece event of cricket’s newest and most explosive format since its inaugural edition in 2007, pressure is firmly on India to deliver the trophy. The same was true going into the 50-over World Cup, when a 22-year-old Kohli, competing in his first major international event, played his part in the team managing the massive expectations and coming through for the victory to the delight of a cricket-mad country.
“It obviously helps knowing that we were able to come through in the longer format of the game, so your skill levels, your concentration levels everything is tested much more than in a Twenty20 game,” Kohli said on the eve of India’s match with New Zealand. “So we got over that hurdle in the 50-over format, which was a major hurdle honestly. For me first time to be the youngest in the team and experience that kind of pressure, I didn’t feel it so much because I was a youngster, but I saw the senior players, the way people expected things out of them.
“At home we expect that, at home we are prepared for that. I think all these major events the skill required is how you manage yourself off the field, because on the field is probably the safest and the quietest place for you, especially playing in your home country.”
Expectation that India will be the team with the trophy in their hands following the final in Kolkata on April 3 has only increased thanks to the team’s sparkling form over the past two months. India have swept Australia, in Australia, defeated Sri Lanka at home and then lifted the Asia Cup in Bangladesh to establish themselves as firm favorites heading into the sixth World T20. Kohli, though, is not getting carried away.
“We are pretty confident with the way we have been playing,” he said. “We have won 10 out of last 11 games and we are taking some good momentum into the World Cup. The Asia Cup was good preparation for us, but this is going to be far more challenging. You have teams from all over the world competing. If you look at both the groups, the teams are very strong, very evenly matched. It’s going to be tough.
India have arguably been drawn into the tougher of the two groups, with matches against Pakistan, Bangladesh and Australia to follow their opening duel with New Zealand. Only the top two from each five-team group will progress to the semifinals.
New Zealand have only ever made one semifinal appearance at a World Twenty20, and that was back in 2007. However, cricket in the country is currently on a high after reaching the final of last year’s 50-over World Cup, even if their captain and inspiration for that achievement, Brendon McCullum, has just retired from the international stage.
Taking McCullum’s place as captain is Kane Williamson, who struck a quick-fire 63 in New Zealand’s final warm-up game with England, although it wasn’t enough to prevent a narrow defeat. Confidence appears to remain high, however, and, while an opening contest with the hosts and favorites might not be ideal, wicketkeeper Luke Ronchi insists his team can make the most of the challenge.
“I think the crowd will be fantastic, the noise and the atmosphere will be amazing,” he told ESPN Cricinfo. “Even though they’ll be going for India, I think we can thrive off the buzz as well. We just need to go in and do what we can do. If we worry about our game first and everything else after that I think we have a big chance. It’s obviously going to be hard against the favorites for the tournament but if we can win that first game, it’s a massive confidence booster and we can just fly along from there, hopefully.”
Match time: 10 a.m. EDT
TV channel: Willow TV
Live stream: Willow.tv