REUTERS - India captain Virat Kohli shrugged off concerns about his team’s lower-middle order ahead of their Champions Trophy semi-final with Bangladesh on Thursday and called for complete focus against their “dangerous” opponents.
India’s top order were solid in group stage victories over Pakistan and South Africa, meaning the likes of Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav and Ravindra Jadeja have not really been tested apart from during the defeat by Sri Lanka.
The trio did not bat against South Africa and Jadeja has not faced a ball in the tournament, leading to concerns about what might happen if the likes of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Kohli, Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Singh Dhoni fail to fire.
”As a batsman you want to finish off games,“ Kohli told a news conference on Wednesday. ”You are not necessarily going to get out thinking ‘my middle order has not got enough game time’.
“We know Kedar and Hardik are playing really well at the moment so we are not bothered at all.”
Kohli said India would field the same team that pulled off a comprehensive eight-wicket win over South Africa in their last match, meaning spinner Ravichandran Ashwin will keep his place at the expense of pace bowler Umesh Yadav.
The skipper also warned his team not to underestimate Bangladesh, a team who have improved dramatically over the past few years to the point where they are now one game away from reaching a first final at an ICC event.
“It’s no surprise anymore to anyone that they are doing really well,” Kohli added. “They are a very dangerous side on their day and everyone realises that ... Bangladesh have taken huge strides.”
Bangladesh skipper Mashrafe Mortaza urged his team not to let the hype surrounding the match get to them.
”Our plan was always to take it match by match,“ he said. ”I think if everyone approaches the semi-final as just another match, it will be good for the team.
“There will be a lot of hype around this game ... but our first task is to stay relaxed and play.”
Mortaza said Bangladesh would need to adapt to the conditions at Edgbaston, a venue they have not played at yet during the tournament.
“The wicket looks the same as the one at The Oval,” he added. “It could be tough, but the truth is we will have to adjust to playing on it no matter what shape it is in.”
The Bangladesh skipper also dismissed concerns that the pressure of the occasion could get to his side.
“If you talk about pressure, I think India has more pressure than us. Because huge population is there and the people love cricket a lot,” he said. “Both teams have a lot of expectations.”
Reporting by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; Editing by Alison Williams