Kohli feels confident before most challenging WC

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Riaz’s Cricket World Cup selection dream comes true

MUMBAI, May 21, (Agencies): India are very confident about their form, captain Virat Kohli said on Tuesday before his squad depart for the 10-nation World Cup in England and Wales starting next week.

 “Personally, I think this is probably the most challenging World Cup of all the three that I’ve been part of, because of the format,” the 30-year-old Kohli told reporters in Mumbai ahead of the team’s departure.

 The World Cup will use a revised format to decide the semifinalists, with the teams all playing each other in the round-robin stage.

 “We go into the World Cup feeling very balanced and confident. All our players have been in great form in the IPL,” Kohli said referring to the Indian Premier League which ended this month.

 The India squad will travel to England on Wednesday in their quest for a third World Cup title. They begin their campaign against South Africa in Southampton on June 5.

 The 46-day event starts on May 30 and will conclude with the final at Lord’s in London on July 14.

 “Any team can beat any team … The gap is much closer now between teams,” India coach Ravi Shastri said.

 Meanwhile, Wahab Riaz says he dreamed about being selected for Pakistan’s Cricket World Cup squad about 10 days ago.

This, despite not being in the 23-man preliminary squad, and not having played a one-day international since the 2017 Champions Trophy triumph in England.

But Riaz’s dream came true when the fast bowler was chosen for the 15-man squad, along with batsman Asif Ali and left-arm fast bowler Mohammad Amir for the tournament in England next week.

“I had a dream that Inzi bhai (chief selector) gave me a call and told me that I have been selected and this is my last chance,” Riaz said on Tuesday. “Exactly the same thing happened when he (Inzamam-ul-Haq) called me to inform about my selection.”

Inzamam believed Riaz’s experience of reverse swing with the old ball will be handy on English pitches. He has taken 102 wickets in 79 ODIs at an average of 34, but he took no wickets in the 2017 Champions Trophy and only one in three matches in 2016 against England.

“With the conditions dry and wickets hard in England, there will be reverse swing … I have expertise over reverse swing so I will try to restrict the flow of runs in the last overs,” Riaz said.

Pakistan bowlers struggled to stem the flow of runs while losing to England 4-0 in the recent ODI series, which caused the selectors to drop fast bowlers Junaid Khan and allrounder Faheem Ashraf.

“There’s a lot of pressure,” Riaz said, “since Inzi bhai has said that I have been brought back on the basis of my experience.”

Inzamam is counting on Riaz to reproduce the kind of fiery spirit he showed against Shane Watson in their 2015 World Cup quarter-final in Adelaide. Watson was on the winning side, but Riaz’s bowling to him made the lasting impression.

“Since the pitches are placid and conditions are batting conducive it becomes necessary to have an aggressive approach otherwise the batsmen will dominate you,” Riaz said. “If a batsman demeans me, I will do what I did that day.”

Riaz sympathized for Junaid Khan for losing his place after taking only two wickets in two matches against England.

“He will be saddened and very much frustrated, and he must be thinking being treated unfair,” Riaz said.

Riaz was right. Junaid reacted on Monday by posting a picture on his Twitter account of a black tape over his mouth, and a message: “I dont want to say anything. Truth is bitter.” He deleted the tweet.

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