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Indian camp 'relaxed', Pakistan players 'excited'

London,June 18(Fast Mail):--The contrast between how the teams are approaching the big day, and indeed the whole tournament, could not be more pronounced. Virat Kohli has been preaching the ‘dial it down’ mantra throughout, saying the team is focused on staying relaxed, on keeping the excitement at bay. Sarfraz Ahmed can barely contain his smile even at press conferences, and Mickey Arthur, the Pakistan coach, is happy to pronounce his wards as excited for the final.

 

Their paths to the final have also been markedly different. It is no surprise to anyone that India is there till the end to defend the title it won in 2013. For Pakistan, making the tournament itself was touch and go, and once in, nobody realistically thought it  had more than one group victory in it.

 

 Sarfraz Ahmed can barely contain his smile, and Mickey Arthur is happy to pronounce his wards as excited for the final. Sarfraz Ahmed can barely contain his smile, and Mickey Arthur is happy to pronounce his wards as excited for the final.

 

Who would have thought, after the opening game at Edgbaston in Birmingham when India brushed Pakistan aside by 124 runs, that the same two teams would be in the final?

 

“We finished our preparation today with a good chat just before we came down to the ground,” said Arthur. “The guys are under no illusion as to what the expectation is on them, but they're genuinely excited. I said before the Edgbaston game, I thought they were really, really calm, but they're very, very excited now, and there's a hell of a good vibe in that dressing room. Let's hope we can put our ‘A’ game again tomorrow, because if we can, and do the basics well, we can beat anybody.”

 

Sarfraz had voiced the opinion after the loss against India that his young team needed backing from his countrymen, and the results would follow. The team gave its followers a reason to back it, and the support has overflowed. “When we came here, the backing was not there, but the way they are supporting us now I hope in the final also we’ll have all their good wishes with us,” said Sarfraz. “After the first match, we have been playing this tournament like a knockout tournament. This is a knockout too. As a young team, we are very motivated and excited. We will play the final with the same hard work and passion that we have played the rest of the tournament with.”

 

For Kohli, the mantra was all too similar. "We've never – until now we've never spoken of the semi-final in any different way," he said. "We haven't spoken about this game in any different way. We've practised the same way from the first day we came here. Even today's practice was absolutely similar. There wasn't any drop of intensity or something extra. There's no over-excitement. People are just doing the normal things that they do in any practice session, and that's the kind of approach we have maintained throughout the tournament.

 

“As I said last time, it's just another game of cricket tomorrow, and whatever the result, we have to go forward and play more games after that. The more relaxed you stay in these kind of situations, it's a good thing because it helps you take better decisions when you are composed and calm mentally. You can help the team come out of difficult situations only if you're thinking in that fashion. We have changed nothing from the first day we came here, honestly."

 

 We've practised the same way from the first day we came here. Even today's practice was absolutely similar. We've practised the same way from the first day we came here. Even today's practice was absolutely similar.

 

While Sarfraz was speaking of his team embracing the pressure by playing every match as a knockout – which it became once it had lost to India – Kohli has been saying right through, even before India’s knockout games, that the key lay in treating it as ‘just another game’. Before the final, he went a step further, advocating the need to stay detached outside and connected within.

  

“It's so important to stay away from those things, to connect to things that matter, the things that a sportsman needs to take care of,” elaborated Kohli. “It's tough, but you have to make that sort of effort to stay in a good zone and a good mindset, to be happy playing second fiddle in a big tournament like this throughout in all the games, to be thinking about bouncing back after a setback. I've learned a lot how to handle certain things. And that can only happen when you're able to connect with yourself first. If you're too distracted, listening to too many suggestions or praise or criticism, then you can't focus on what you need to think as a sportsman – first to be able to lead the team and then help the others in the team, as well. Yeah, that's probably been the biggest learning. To be able to maintain that balance nicely has been a good thing for me.”

 

The one thing both teams agreed on was in terms of game strategy. They were both intent on keeping the focus on their own games, rather than getting too obsessed by the opposition. India has been proponents of that for a long while. Pakistan began at the other extreme, but as per Arthur, has swung around.

 

“What we've tried to do is just prepare as we normally prepare,” said the Pakistan coach. “You know, we've concentrated more this time on our own games, on our own game plans, as to where we want to go with the game. We dissected India a lot before the game at Edgbaston, and we've sort of backtracked a little bit on that now and are sort of solidifying what we did really well, confirming what we've done well in terms of our bowling, in terms of our batting, in terms of our fielding, and building on that. Tomorrow is going to be about us rather than the opposition.”

 

Who has their way on Sunday will determine where the Champions Trophy goes.

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