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Virat Kohli: 'Rohit Sharma is best ODI player in the world right now'

Virat Kohli: 'Rohit Sharma is best ODI player in the world right now'
© Reuters
Opener Sharma has struck five centuries at the World Cup

Virat Kohli is contented with his understated role in India’s batting line-up at the World Cup as he admitted the pressure is constantly on his side ahead of their semi-final showdown against New Zealand.

Kohli is often held up as the gold standard in one-day internationals, with 41 centuries at an average approaching 60 helping him top the format’s ICC batting rankings.

However, he has yet to reach three figures in this tournament, with Rohit Sharma India’s standout performer with the bat so far.

The opener became the first man to register five centuries in a single World Cup campaign, contributing 103 – his third hundred in a row – to help India brush aside Sri Lanka over the weekend and finish top of the group table.

Kohli, though, is happy to defer to his team-mate – now second in the world rankings – saying on the eve of their clash against the Kiwis at Old Trafford: “It’s been a different kind of role that I’ve had to play in this World Cup.

“As the captain of this team, I’ve been open to playing any kind of role that the team wants me to. It’s great that Rohit is scoring so consistently.

“I’ve been very happy with holding one end and letting guys express themselves. I know that I can accelerate in the end. Personal milestones, honestly, is something that no one ever focuses on.

“But I hope he gets two more (hundreds) so that we can win two more games because it’s an outstanding achievement, we’ve never seen anyone get five hundreds in a World Cup.

“World Cup is all the more pressure and he’s just been outstanding. He deserves all the credit and, according to me, he’s at the moment the top ODI player in the world.”

Champions in 2011, India were knocked out at the semi-final stage four years ago, Kohli participating in both campaigns, but they have been tipped by many to go all the way again this time.

With expectation comes an intense level of pressure but Kohli revealed that is par for the course for his side as a result of the cricket obsession in India.

He believes being regularly expected to shoulder the burden – not only for the national team but in high-profile events such as the Indian Premier League – means India will handle the tight moments better than the Black Caps.

Virat Kohli and Rohit Sharma
Virat Kohli is happy to let in-form Rohit Sharma lead India’s charge at the World Cup (Mike Egerton/PA)

He said: “The Indian team always carries a lot of expectation and pressure whenever we play.

“We are quite used to that over the years. We are better equipped to react in these situations because we know what these kind of games and our fan base and the expectations bring.

“I can’t remember the last time I stepped onto the field and thought ‘It doesn’t really matter what happens in this game’.

“For the Indian team there is always full stadiums and people expect you to do well. There’s always pressure, as well as opportunity.”

The team that has batted first at Old Trafford has prevailed in all five matches here at the World Cup, but Kohli said: “We are not worried about the toss. It’s an uncontrollable. You can’t predict what’s going to happen.

“You have to be prepared both ways. We are quite open to that. And if it is a factor, it’s a factor.

Old Trafford
All five teams who have batted first at Old Trafford during the World Cup have gone on to win the game (David Davies/PA)

“We can’t say if we lose the toss we have no hope. We should believe enough in ourselves as a side to overcome any situation.”

Tuesday’s fixture is not the first time Kohli and New Zealand captain Kane Williamson have gone head-to-head in a World Cup semi-final, having faced off for their countries at Under-19 level in February 2008.

On that occasion, India triumphed – and Kohli even bagged the crucial wicket of Williamson.

However, Kohli said with a smile: “I got Kane’s wicket? Did I? I don’t know if that can happen again.

“I’m sure he remembers and when we meet tomorrow, I’m going to remind him.”

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