Kohli says composure key, de Villiers calls for calmness
One lesson India would have taken from the defeat against Sri Lanka is to not get overexcited. India captain Virat Kohli had stressed that the 321-run target set against Sri Lanka was good enough and Sri Lanka had done well to chase it down. That might have surprised Kohli.
Faced with a do-or-die encounter against South Africa on Sunday, at the same ground, on the same pitch, Kohli said if India have to win they need to be "composed".
"You need to have a good balance of being competitive and being passionate about the game, but at the same time, not getting overexcited," Kohli said on Saturday. "The team that treats the game as normal as possible is the team that's in a better position to get the right result."
Kohli doesn't believe this is the biggest match of his short career as captain. Such matches raise the tempo and the spirit of the team, he said, and it is something he "craves" for. Kohli's message to his players was to make sure they did not overstress themselves.
"A lot of times, teams come in and they want to do something special and end up messing up the game in important situations. The team that can have most composure, I would say, to sum it up, will have a better chance of winning the game tomorrow. That's what I've experienced in the past. You tend to get overexcited, and then you commit errors that can cost the team important runs, or you fail to grab all the chances because you're overexcited and that can cost the team as well. I think composure will be the biggest word for tomorrow."
One other man at The Oval agreed with Kohli - AB de Villiers, the South Africa captain. That both men think the same should not come across as strange, only because they cannot afford to let their teams get carried away.
De Villiers, more than Kohli, understands what works and what doesn't in knockout contests. No other team has experienced the full range of emotions in do-or-die matches like South Africa has.
"It is really important to stay calm," de Villiers said. "Not get overexcited. The tendency will be there, because we all live for these kinds of moments."
Retaining the focus and the energy at key moments can be the difference between winning and losing, de Villiers said.
"I'm expecting the same kind of intensity and hunger out there tomorrow but with a relaxed kind of mindset. I think that's really important to remember we are playing a game of cricket, something that we love doing, and to get that smile on our faces out there when we're playing. It's going to be really important and I'll try and lead that from the front."
Nagraj Gollapudi is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo