(Reuters) - India will benefit from a fitter, more mature squad when they begin their defence of the Champions Trophy next month, but the team have little room for error because of the tournament’s short format, skipper Virat Kohli said on Thursday.
Kohli, who was part of the side that trumped hosts England in the final at Edgbaston in 2013, is relishing the chance to lead India’s title defence and says the squad is well balanced with the right mentality to replicate their earlier success.
“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,” Kohli told reporters after India touched down in London for the tournament starting on June 1.
“It has gained a lot of experience in the last three or four years... We are in a good head-space going into this tournament.”
India begin their Group B campaign against arch-rivals Pakistan in Birmingham on June 4, before facing Sri Lanka and South Africa, and Kohli called for complete focus.
“I love the tournament because it represents a challenge from the (word) go. In the ICC Cricket World Cup you have a league and a lot of games to play but here it is group games and then either the semis or you are out.”
Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been included in India’s squad and although Kohli expects his former captain to thrive during the tournament, he called on the rest in the lower middle order to help ease the pressure on the 35-year-old.
”We needed to strengthen our lower middle order contribution,“ Kohli said. ”I felt too much burden was coming on MS Dhoni in the past couple of years.
“He wasn’t able to express himself purely because of the fact that there are not enough guys showing composure to finish off the game with him. But now we are a balanced side,” he said.
“It’s about execution now. You might have the best side in the world but if you do not execute there is no point having that skill. In a tournament like this it all boils down to how you execute on the day.”
Writing by Simon Jennings in Bengaluru; editing by Mark Heinrich