Virat Kohli has expressed his excitement towards captaining India for the first time in a major International Cricket Council (ICC) event.
Kohli will lead his country at the Champions Trophy in England next month and will be looking to replicate their successful campaign under the leadership of Mahendra Singh Dhoni in 2013.
“I am very excited to be playing as captain in my first major ICC competition,” he said. “As far as the team goes, we won last time because our fast bowlers did very well, our spinners were strong and our opening batsman did well.
“They were the main three factors. This year the team is a lot fitter, the cricketers are a lot more mature because that was a very young group four years ago. It has gained a lot of experience in the last three or four years. I love the tournament because it represents a challenge from the [word] go.”
In the last edition of the Champions Trophy in 2013, India defeated England in a rain-affected final by five runs.
However, given how England have performed at home as of late, Kohli admitted that the hosts will be tough to beat as they have a strong batting line-up and are capable of amassing huge scores, which was evident last year as they posted 444/3 in an ODI against Pakistan in Nottingham.
“I think England are a very, very balanced side,” Kohli said. “One of the two best balanced sides in the world at the moment. They bat right down to 9 or 10, they are all explosive players, five or six guys can bat and bowl, and they are gun fielders as well.
“We experienced that in India, they are pretty hard to get past, and that’s something that is going to be a challenge for every other team in the Champions Trophy as well. We always related to England as a very strong Test team, but in last two or three years post [the 2015] World Cup, they’ve really changed the way they play their cricket.
“I don’t think they’ve scored anything less than 330 now, which moves the game on pretty rapidly. It is indeed a challenge for all sides that play against them. Credit to them for shaping their short-format cricket so well, and I’m sure they’ll be eager to go a long way in this tournament as well.”
Kohli also conceded that he cannot pinpoint any glaringly obvious weaknesses that England have.
“Not at the moment, especially in their conditions, they are pretty strong,” he added. “When a side plays in that manner for so long, when it doesn’t click it goes against you pretty quickly. But they have managed to continue that mindset pretty well, I don’t see anyone taking a backwards step at any stage of the game, and that is pretty amazing to see.
“For the whole batting line-up to play like that is pretty rare. You always have two or three guys playing through the innings, but for them it’s all about attack, throughout the 50 overs which is exciting for the fans and challenging for the opposition. You have to be on top of your game to get past a team like that.”