The Cricketer
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NO WEAKNESSES IN ENGLAND’S CHAMPIONS TROPHY SQUAD - VIRAT KOHLI

India captain full of praise for England's style

England come into the tournament with that ever-worrying weight of the favourites tag slung around their neck. Despite only being fifth in the ICC ODI rankings, England’s talented band – led by Eoin Morgan – play an explosive brand of cricket with the ability beat anyone on their day. In home conditions too, it’s hard to look past the hosts, a team that Kohli credits with shaping white-ball cricket.

“They are a very balanced side, one of the two best in the world I would say. They are pretty hard to get past, something that will be a challenge for every other team in the Champions Trophy.

“They have really changed the way they play their cricket, I don’t think they score anything less than 330 now. Credit to them for shaping the short format. I’m sure they'll be eager to go all the way in this tournament.”

If any side is to stop Eoin Morgan's men, then perhaps Kohli & Co are best placed having taken the ODI series 2-1 back in January. They twice outgunned England - at Pune and Cuttack - despite the tourists posting totals of 350 and 366. Having faced them so recently, The Cricketer asked Virat whether he could pick any weaknesses in England’s XI...

“Not at the moment. Especially in their conditions they're pretty strong. The only thing being, when a side plays in that manner for so long, when it doesn’t click it can go against you pretty quickly but they have managed to continue the mind set pretty well.

“I don’t see anyone taking a backward step at any stage in the game and that’s pretty amazing to see, for the whole batting line-up to play like that is quite rare.

“For them it is all about attacking throughout the overs which I think is exciting for the fans to see. For the opposition it is challenging because you have to be on top of your game throughout to get past a team like that.”

It is the first time Kohli will lead India in a major tournament. He was part of the 2013 team – top scoring with 43 in the Edgbaston final – as India ripped victory from England's grasp. In many ways the India skipper feels the class of 2017 are an improvement on the 2013 champions.

“I'm personally really excited as captain, the team is much fitter (than 2013), the cricketers are more mature. That was a young group and a lot of them are playing in this squad. They have gained a lot of experience in the last four years. I personally love the tournament because it presents a challenge for you right from the first game. It is only three games and you're either out or you play the semis.”

Kohli also paused for reflection on the events in Manchester earlier this week.

“What happened was really saddening, especially for a place like England that has not had many of these incidents happen in the past. I don’t think as a squad you have time to focus on those factors because we are here for a sporting tournament and that for us remains paramount. I personally don’t feel nervous, I saw life resume pretty normally and that’s always a healthy sign.”

We have a bumper Champions Trophy guide in our latest mag, with all eight teams previewed in full, and top articles from two of cricket’s most dedicated and knowledgeable journalists, Lawrence Booth, the editor of Wisden, and Tim Wigmore.