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‘India-Pakistan game is always exciting for all the fans’

MUMBAI: Indian skipper Virat Kohli said Wednesday his side would be ruthless in defending their Champions Trophy title next month, describing the competition as tougher even than the World Cup.

India begin their Champions Trophy campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan on June 4 in Birmingham, but Kohli played down the hype surrounding the hotly-anticipated clash.

“As a cricketer you can’t even think of the non-striker when you are facing a ball, so forget about things that are not in our control,” Kohli said of playing Pakistan amid a tense political climate between the rivals.

“Yes, an India-Pakistan game is always exciting for all the fans watching but for us as cricketers, it’s just a game of cricket.”

Kohli suffered a shoulder injury during the Australia series to miss the final game. He then returned to skipper Indian Premier League side Royal Challengers Bangalore, only to see them end last in the ladder.

But he was confident the Twenty20 tournament had made him match-fit, a boon ahead of the short-format Champions Trophy event.

“I don’t think you can have too much similarity in both formats but getting some game time it helps a lot of people to stay in the zone of being match-fit,” he said.

“…IPL allows you to be in that zone. Play against the world class players from all the teams. It could be the most competitive game that you could be a part of (in IPL) before the Champions Trophy.”

“The hunger to win and ruthlessness is what we speak about all the time. In Test cricket we have done well with that mindset,” Kohli told reporters in Mumbai before the squad’s departure for England.

“That goes a long way in a tournament like this. If we think in that manner, we will get the results we want more often than not.”

Tougher than World Cup

Kohli, who was part of Mahendra Singh Dhoni’s side in 2013 that claimed the Trophy, said the eight-team event offered little room for error.

“I think because the tournament is much shorter and you have got top eight teams in the world, the competitiveness is much higher from the word go,” said Kohli.

“In a World Cup you have league games and you have time to get into the tournament and dominate in the later half. But in Champions Trophy you need to be on the top of your game from game one. If not, then your chances go down pretty soon.”

India have retained eight members of their title-winning squad that overcame England in 2013.

Kohli described wicketkeeper-batsman Dhoni and veteran batsman Yuvraj Singh as “the two pillars” of the current Indian side.

“They have so much experience that if you give them freedom to play their own game in the middle order then I am sure they are the best judge of how to win a game,” said Kohli, who assumed the one-day international captaincy from Dhoni in January.

India will play South Africa, Pakistan and Sri Lanka in Group B, while England, Australia, Bangladesh and New Zealand form Group A. The two top sides from each group will progress to the semi-finals.

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