Sydney, Mar 25: Not many gave the Indian cricket team a chance in the World Cup after the horror tour of Australia but star batsman Virat Kohli said the players never stopped believing in themselves which helped them surprise the critics.
"To be honest, not many people gave us the chance, even to qualify for the semis and I know that for a fact when the tournament started. So we've surprised a lot of people, but we haven't surprised ourselves at all," Kohli told cricket.com.au in an interview.
"We knew that we had the capability and we had the kind of talent and the passion that's needed for us to be a successful international side in any format," he added.
India turned around their fortunes after a winless early Australian summer to be worthy defending champions in the 50-over showpiece event. Kohli, who stood in as captain in two Test matches in place of the injured Mahendra Singh Dhoni, said they never considered their performance a failure but only a launchpad for future success.
"We haven't had the results that we wanted but I in no way see this tour as a failure anywhere. And the way that we played in the Test series, the way that we've played this World Cup shows that.
"We can be really proud of the cricket we've played. The results I'm sure will follow if we keep playing in the same way and we have the same approach which is going to be consistent from this point onwards, so I think the results will start falling our way or falling into our basket in the future," said Kohli, who took over the Test captaincy after Mahendra Singh Dhoni retired post the Melbourne match and is captain-in-waiting in ODIs as well.
India are very close to another World Cup triumph as they take on co-hosts Australia in the second semi-final at the SCG tomorrow and Kohli knows the importance of the victory.
"Winning the World Cup and going back would be a really great achievement, especially knowing that it's happening in Australia," he said.
We left behind whatever happened before
India failed to win a single ODI in the tri-series India failed to win a single ODI in the tri-series involving eventual finalists Australia and England. Kohli admitted that the tournament was a bit out of place in the long tour.
"The tri-series I think was a bit of an off time because we didn't figure out what the importance of that series was as far as we were concerned because we were in Australia for too long already," said Kohli, whose team had spent two months in Australia by the time the tri-series kicked off.
Kohli, 26, said the space between the tri-series and the World Cup was when the team realised the need to start afresh and move forward.
"The preparation factor didn't really connect to us. I think that was the time that the bowlers realised what we needed to look for in the World Cup and the things we needed to improve, so I think that period really helped us to work on the things we wanted to.
"We left behind whatever happened before that in the series, we only picked up the positives and we moved forward and I think in a long tour you need to do that. You need to refresh yourself, clean the slate and start afresh," he said.
Having settled in as India's No.3 batsman in ODIs, Kohli has managed to score 304 runs from 7 matches at an average of 60. Kohli insists that he has stuck to what his role has demanded of him.
"My roles have been pretty similar in both World Cups. Even last time around I was told to play that sort of floating middle-order batsman where, if there is a pressure situation, I should absorb that and play as many balls as I can to ease off that situation for the impact players to come in and play with more freedom," he said.
"So I think that is what I've planned to do in this World Cup as well. The load has been shared and my role has been to control the innings. I would rather see myself being a part of more partnerships rather than focusing on personal performance so that's something I've been able to do in this World Cup with the other guys," he added.
Kohli also lauded the batsmen's effort that has helped the men in Blue sail into the last-four.
"It's been lovely the way the batsmen have been able to come together and the understanding and the communication. That's what you want as a team, that's what you want in the World Cup to perform and win when everyone is sharing the load and youre not too dependent on one guy, so I think thats been very pleasing to see."