MANCHESTER: India captain Virat Kohli swatted aside talks about a duel with Pakistan speedster Mohammad Amir and played down the hype around Sunday’s World Cup blockbuster between the arch-rivals at Old Trafford.
The nuclear-armed neighbours have gone to war three times since independence in the mid-20th century - and another conflict nearly erupted earlier this year, giving an even spicier-than-usual geopolitical backdrop to the contest.
India have an unblemished record in 50-overs World Cup against their neighbours having beaten Pakistan on each of the six encounters between the former champions.
There has been plenty of hype surrounding Sunday’s sold out contest but Kohli refused to fuel it further.
“I think the best way to approach something like this... it’s not going to last a lifetime for you, whether you do well or you don’t,” Kohli said.
“Our tournament, whether we do well as a team tomorrow or we don’t, is not going to finish... So I think the focus always has to be on the larger picture.”
The match was sold out hours after tickets went on sale for the 26,000-capacity stadium and millions more will be watching at home.
Kohli understands the fan sentiments but said the players have learned to cocoon themselves from the elevated expectations.
“I can’t tell the fans to think in a particular manner. For us, it has to be a professional approach to the game,” said the 30-year-old.
“We can’t get emotional or over-excited with any occasion. Obviously the player’s mindset is different from the fans and you can’t mix these two.
“From a fan point of view, looking at the atmosphere and frenzy around the game, I wouldn’t say it is easy to think like a player but for the players it’s very very crucial to be absolutely professional.”