Virat Kohli hails Jofra Archer's 'X-factor'
Virat Kohli, India's captain, says it is a great compliment to have been name-checked by Jofra Archer as the wicket that England's newest fast-bowling recruit most wants to claim in the forthcoming World Cup, and believes that he has an "X Factor" that justifies his fast-tracking into England's 15-man squad for the tournament.
However, Kohli also suggested that the batting line-up that has lifted England to No.1 in the world rankings is "obsessed" with becoming the first team to post 500 runs in a single ODI innings, and warned that they would struggle to play their full-throttle expansive game when the pressure ramps up at the sharp end of the tournament.
Sitting next to England's captain, Eoin Morgan, at the World Cup captains press conference in East London, Kohli took his chance to fire the first shots in the psychological battle between the two teams that most pundits believe are the likeliest to contest the World Cup final at Lord's on July 14.
World Cup captains choose a player for their country's XI from the opposition ESPNcricinfo Ltd
India's captain has recent experience of World Cup glory, having played a role in the 2011 victory over Sri Lanka in Mumbai, whereas England have never won the tournament in 11 events dating back to 1975, and have not won a knock-out match since reaching the final in 1992.
And while England's batsmen were in ominous form going into this year's event, having become the first ODI side in history to put up 340-plus totals in four consecutive matches, en route to a 4-0 win over Pakistan, Kohli hinted that life would not be quite as simple for Morgan's big-hitters when there's a trophy at stake, as they discovered in 2017 when losing to Pakistan in a low-scoring Champions Trophy semi-final in Cardiff.
"They [England] seem to be obsessed with getting to 500 before anyone else," Kohli said. "They smash it from ball one and for the full 50 overs.
"It could be pretty high-scoring, but 260/270 is going to be as difficult to get as chasing 370, 380 in a World Cup."
England's record total displayed on the Trent Bridge scoreboard Getty Images
The World Cup's history bears out Kohli's warning. Only twice has a total more than 300 been posted from the semi-finals stage onwards - although it was Australia who twice achieved the feat against India, in the final in 2003 (359 for 2) and the semi-final in Sydney in 2015 (328 for 7).
"I don't see too much high-scoring in the later half of the tournament," Kohli added. "Some teams might get on a roll, but you'll see 250 defended as well as because of the kind of pressure that comes with it.
"When you get closer to the knockout phases, that is going to bring greater pressure and no-one is going to go gung-ho from ball one. Generally teams will find a way, but I see pressure playing a massive role."
For that reason, England may well be grateful for the added firepower that Archer adds to their bowling ranks, in the wake of a quietly impressive first bow in international cricket against Ireland and Pakistan earlier this month.
Speaking on Sky Sports in the wake of his naming in the final 15, Archer had said that he wanted to get Kohli's wicket above all others - not least because, in their four IPL clashes to date, his Rajasthan Royals team-mate Shreyas Gopal had bagged the big one before he could get him in his sights.
"I'd quite like to get Virat out, because I wasn't able to get him in the IPL because I think a leggie [Gopal] got him in every game he played," he said.
Jofra Archer celebrates the wicket of Fakhar Zaman AFP
"Did he say that?" asked Kohli at the captain's event. "That's news to me, news to Morgs as well. I don't really focus on these things.
"I take a lot of pride in performing well for the team and making a big impact on each game I play so, if Jofra said that, it's a big compliment as he himself is a world-class bowler.
It is high praise coming from a player of Kohli's calibre, who will go into the World Cup as the No.1 ranked batsman in both Test and ODI cricket, following a stellar run of form that has included nine 50-over hundreds since the start of 2018.
And though their head-to-heads at the IPL have been limited, Kohli has seen enough of Archer's talents with the white ball to know what he will offer to England's bowling attack.
"The way he has come through at the IPL over the last couple of years, I have seen him and he's played all round the world and done well, so there's a good reason why he's been fast-tracked into playing for England in a tournament like the World Cup.
"I think he's going to be the X-factor because he has all the skillsets and he's very different from anyone else. He can generate a lot of pace which can be intimidating and you don't really expect that from his run-up. He's just a great athlete and I'm sure the England team will be delighted to have him and he will be exciting to watch at the World Cup. I personally will be watching his bowling because whatever I've seen of him he is really impressive."