India skipper Kohli expects team to play with more intensity and energy v NZ

India take on New Zealand at the Old Trafford here today — the venue which hosted England’s first ODI way back in 1972 — while England clash with arch-rivals Australia at Edgbaston on Thursday.

Table toppers India start favourites against New Zealand, who finished fourth on the table. Having seen all teams and beaten almost everyone [except England], the Kiwis are the only outfit Team India have not faced in the competition after their match at Trent Bridge was washed out on June 13. The only time they faced each other was in the first warm-up game which India lost.

It’s all about intensity

Knockout games are all about higher intensity. The team that can rise to the occasion and take their game a notch higher is better equipped to win the contest. India skipper Virat Kohli knows this very well, having experienced defeat to Australia in the semi-final of the 2015 World Cup after being unbeaten in the group stage.

Having captained India to the No. 1 position in the longer format, Kohli likened the knockout games situation to “the toughest situations you get in Test cricket” where you have to be “absolutely precise, but your intent cannot go down”.

Although Kohli’s men are already being tipped to reach the final even before the semi-final clash, the India captain knows that unless they bring out their A-game, it won’t be possible.

“It is very important to realise as a team that you have done what you wanted to do as a first goal. And now you can be even more intense and energetic when you step on to the field.

“Now we can focus totally on the remaining two games that we have in the tournament and try to bring our A-game and take up the intensity even more,” said Kohli on match eve.

“It gives you more energy knowing we are entering the last phase of the tournament. Bodies are not going to be as fresh but these things motivate you even further to put in more energy. So we are quite happy after qualifying,” he added.

The first semi-final looks even on paper as far as the match-up between India and New Zealand’s bowling attack is concerned. All eyes will be on how Jasprit Bumrah and Lockie Ferguson, both with 17 wickets each and in their maiden World Cup appearance, perform in a high-pressure contest.

Bumrah will remember his no-ball during the 2017 Champions Trophy final against Pakistan which probably cost India the game. He has evolved since then and the Indian attack has successfully overcome various challenges, which makes Kohli rate them one of the best in business. “Our bowling attack has been up there with the best, if not the best in the competition. The way we have bowled in low-scoring games, even coming back into the match when the guys have been hit, showed a lot of character.

‘Need to be disciplined’

“And the New Zealand attack has always been a very balanced bowling one. So, we know that against them, we’ll have to be very, very disciplined,” said Kohli.

According to the Indian captain, the recipe to win knockout games is to be brave and calculative. “Both teams are experienced enough but on the day, the team which is more brave in being calculated stands a better chance to win,” he concluded.

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