LONDON: Virat Kohli says India’s Champions Trophy demolition of South Africa was fuelled by his refusal to spare his players from criticism.
Kohli’s side crushed South Africa by eight wickets at The Oval in their final Group B fixture to set up a semi-final showdown with Bangladesh on Thursday.
India had to win to avoid elimination after slumping to a shock loss against Sri Lanka, a spluttering performance that prompted Kohli to let his team know where they were going wrong.
Rather than sugar-coat his comments to save his players’ pride, the India captain made it clear they had to improve and he was delighted with how they responded in the make or break clash on Sunday.
“You have to be honest. You have to sometimes say things that hurt. That’s what I believe in,” he said. “You have to lay it out in front of them that this is what we did wrong, including me, and we need to take it on the chin and accept it and prove it. That’s why we are chosen among millions of people to play at this level.”
And the skipper believes the players need to develop tough skin if they are to succeed at this level. “You have to be good enough to do that for the country and you have to be good enough to bounce back,” he said. “You can’t do the same mistakes over and over again. That sort of mindset is really helping all of us to come together as a unit and make things happen.”
Kohli is leading the side in his first ICC tournament and urged the entire unit to develop. “It’s not about asking two, three players to do it. We are asking everyone to do it and everyone is responding really well,” he said. “Until you have a team effort, you cannot win games, especially in conditions that you are not familiar with. Today was a team performance.”
Three of the four teams in the semi-finals are from the sub-continent, with hosts England being the only exception.
Kohli acknowledged the amount of ODI cricket played in the region was a factor, but he has also been impressed with the way India have adapted to the English conditions.
“Maybe because of how much limited-overs cricket we play, I think the players are getting more experienced in difficult situations,” he said. “Maybe some of the teams have really surprised the opposition with the way they have batted and bowled in certain situations.”
Want to take team forward, says De Villiers
South Africa captain AB de Villiers was one of three players run out as his side collapsed to 191 all out.
De Villiers endured a miserable tournament, scoring only 20 runs, while his team came in for heavy criticism after losing twice in three matches.
“It is always very disappointing when we lose but the way we lost was the most disappointing,” he said. “Through soft dismissals we lost our way and that was the part that hurt the most. Run-outs happen but three in one innings is not how we want to play our cricket that is for sure.”
De Villiers’ leadership has come under question but he insists he is still the right man to prepare the side for the 2019 World Cup. “I’m a good captain and I can take this team forward and win the World Cup I believe, I love doing it,” he said. “Not a lot of people believe me but I feel it is pretty close, it is very difficult to say that after a performance like this but that is what I believe in my heart.”