'I'm hoping not to commit any mistakes'
The upcoming World Cup provides Virat Kohli a chance to complete a unique double. The Delhi youngster led India to the Under-19 World Cup crown in 2008. Three years later he's hoping to replicate that triumph at the senior level.
The 22-year-old is one of India's most consistent batsmen in the last couple of years and deservedly finds himself in second place in the latest International Cricket Council ODI rankings for batsmen.
Captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni is hoping he takes his form into the World Cup and plays a key role in the middle order.
The right-hander has impressive aggregate of 1672 runs from 45 matches, at an amazing average of 46.44, including four centuries and 12 fifties.
Senior Associate Editor Harish Kotian spoke with Kohli at an open media session in Bangalore on Friday.
Are you excited? This is going to be your first 50-overs World Cup?
Actually, we were playing in South Africa so there was not much time to think about that. I was just practicing and preparing myself. I am hoping not to get carried away and commit any unnecessary mistakes. I am just trying to be more relaxed.
Image: Virat Kohli
You seem to thrive under pressure. You hit three centuries while the team batted second.
Not only me, but all cricketers concentrate a lot more under pressure. One is more careful under pressure, and every batsman would agree with that.
You feel a lot more focused and concentrate more while chasing, because you have a set target. You can plan your innings -- like when to accelerate and when to have a period when you are happy with singles and doubles and the odd boundary.
I think it works for me, personally. And with two batsmen building a partnership you know where the game is going. We have trust and faith in all the batsmen we have. Even if we have 80-90 runs required in the last ten overs we know we can pull it off with the Powerplay.
What changes have you made to your batting recently? You are India's most consistent batsmen in the last couple of seasons?
I have learnt from my mistakes; that has been my main goal. I was also given more responsibility of batting up the order. I had good chance of playing a longer innings if I applied more. These are the few changes I tried to make in my game. I was really happy the way I controlled myself when I felt like playing a rash shot and actually didn't.
Image: Virat Kohli
'Going into this World Cup I am really confident'
What mistakes are you referring to?
I played a few rash shots in some of the important matches earlier. One was against Pakistan in the 2009 Champions Trophy. I was set and the situation demanded me to keep going and take my team to victory, but I played a rash shot.
The other was against Australia in Baroda in October 2009, when I was batting on 30 and again I played a rash shot and got out, and the team was in trouble. These were the really big mistakes on my part, because these were really important matches in the context of the series and tournament. And that is why I decided not to commit those mistakes and carry on.
The people in the team, seniors, all of them, told me I should have played a better shot in the situation; they told me I would learn with time and that helped me to some extent, but it was up to me to correct those mistakes.
Will the experience of playing in the Under-19 World Cup, and winning it, help you in this tournament?
I think it is a different feeling altogether; it is the biggest stage of them all. Playing the Under-19 World Cup was really big at that point of time, but now I don't think the experience will be of big help this time.
It is the matches that I have played with the team in the last one-and-a-half years and the kind of situations that I have played in that have really helped. Going into this World Cup I am really confident, because of the way I played in those matches.
Image: Virat Kohli
'Playing any tournament in India we have a bit of pressure'
So how much pressure do you feel playing the World Cup at home?
Playing any tournament in India we have a bit of pressure. But I won't like to say that I have too much pressure. I would like take this as opportunity, as most only dream of playing in the World Cup. Now I have got the opportunity and I am focusing on my game.
When you go on the field there is no point in thinking what people are expecting. I would just like to concentrate on my batting and do what I have done in the past one year, and not try something different or get nervous.
Has the good batting performance in South Africa boosted your confidence?
As a batsman I wanted to do well in South Africa. I did not have any particular goal. I also wanted to do well because going into the World Cup we had to be confident as a unit also. I was just looking to enjoy my game and learn as much as possible and score a few runs, because this was my first tour of South Africa.
Overall, it was a good experience against world class bowlers. Doing well against them has given me a lot of confidence. I just like to carry it into the World Cup, but am not feeling overconfident.
Image: Virat Kohli celebrates with team-mates after a fall of a wicket
'Fielding is all about enjoying'
What are the lessons you learnt from that tough tour of South Africa?
I learnt how to be mentally tough, especially while facing the best bowlers in the world. It's all about looking in the face of the opposition and not getting bogged down by them. They might be the best bowlers in the world, but if you are confident of your ability you can succeed.
So it's about believing in your ability and having trust and confidence in what you are going to do out there. So that really gives a different message to opponents -- that you are there to compete and perform and they have to earn the wicket.
It appeared that you also lifted India's fielding along with Suresh Raina?
I think fielding is all about enjoying. If you take more pressure you tend to make mistakes. The kind of places we field in it's all about anticipation; if you are not too nervous you will be able to anticipate.
So it's all about being relaxed and wanting the ball to come to you. You take a brilliant catch or run-out without even planning it. So the more relaxed you are, the better you can think at that point of time.
Image: Virat Kohli