India captain Virat Kohli has expressed surprise at England’s patchy World Cup performance, hinting that pressure may be playing its part in their struggles.
Kohli nominated the hosts as firm favourites to lift the trophy when questioned on the eve of the tournament, a widely held belief that has been eroded by each of England’s three defeats by Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia.
A fourth against the Indians on Sunday would leave Eoin Morgan’s men in grave danger of missing out on the semi-finals, a state of affairs that has taken Kohli aback.
“Look, everyone is a bit surprised,” he said ahead of the sides’ Edgbaston clash.
“The other teams have outplayed England on occasions, and that can happen to any side. It is a bit surprising, but I expected something like that in the World Cup, where teams are going to be put under pressure.
“Pressure is going to be a massive factor to handle. I have played two World Cups and that usually happens in such a big tournament where all teams are very strong.”
Asked if a failure to manage that growing sense of pressure had been a factor in England’s predicament, he demurred.
“I couldn’t explain that: maybe it did, maybe it didn’t,” Kohli offered.
“Maybe it was just decision-making. I don’t know what the players are feeling inside, it’s for them to assess, not me.”
India are his concern, though, and he has been more than satisfied with their undefeated streak.
“Although we haven’t lost a game until now, we still can’t be complacent as a side,” he said.
“The reason why we won all the games that we’ve played is because we’ve been very professional and precise in pressure moments.
“The more basic you can keep things in a tournament like the World Cup, the better chances you have of being one up against the opposition under pressure. The more you attach emotion or excitement or too much pressure to an occasion, you can’t make good decisions.”
England’s Jonny Bairstow has arguably gone in the opposite direction, hitting the headlines this week after a tetchy media appearance during which he claimed some pundits were willing the team to fail.
Former England captain Michael Vaughan responded by criticising the opener’s “negative, pathetic mindset”.
Kohli was invited to weigh in on that spat but, unsurprisingly for a man of his statesmanlike abilities, declined to fan the flames.
“What’s happening with another team or outside of our change room is of no concern or no importance to us, to be honest,” he said.
“They have to sort out their own issues themselves, I guess.”