Virat Kohli did his best to keep his head – while all around him seemed to be collectively losing theirs.
India’s Bharat Army marched to the beat of their numerous drums, the cacophony reverberating around this most venerable of cricket grounds, with blue very much the colour in this corner of London.
From first ball to last they chanted, cheered, sung and screamed, waving their flags with a flourish and underlining the power of ’home’ advantage.
And this was only their second match of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 – the expectation only building ahead of challenges to come.
But confidence should now be surging for India after a consummate 36-run victory against defending champions Australia, following their confident six-wicket win over South Africa in their tournament opener.
“It’s far too early to talk about semi-finals, after six games we will be in a better position to think about that but it’s not for now,” said Kohli, whose side will next face unbeaten New Zealand at Trent Bridge on Thursday.
“However, we couldn’t ask for a better start against two very strong sides and I like we’ve got the strongest sides in world cricket early on. We have to be at the top of our game from the start of the tournament.
“It was the perfect one-day game for us. We were very professional and that pleases you as a captain. I couldn’t really ask for better, in all three departments. We set the tone with the bat and we bowled really well. We won all the crucial moments and never took our foot off the pedal.”
After winning the toss and deciding to bat, India set about producing a textbook batting performance, inspired by Shikhar Dhawan’s century, Kohli’s 82 and free-scoring cameos from Hardik Pandya and MS Dhoni.
With ball in hand India have a luxury of options and Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar bowled astutely at the death while Kohli’s tactics were as canny as ever. It was all very ominous for those teams to come.
Set 353 to win, which would require a record World Cup run chase, Australia started their response with caution.
Aaron Finch and David Warner prodded conservatively, the latter facing an improbable 14 dot balls while the score seemed to crawl and the run rate sharply escalated.
They initially kept wickets in hand but as the scale of the task became more improbable the issue had to be forced – and then there was only one result.
This was the ninth time these teams have played this year – with honours even, India winning a series in Australia 2-1, while Finch’s team reversed that result with a comeback 3-2 victory on their travels.
And it was those defeats – against an Australian team without bowler Mitchell Starc – that proved Kohli’s inspiration.
“After losing in India we had a point to prove and that was our motivation,” he added. “I knew if we put runs on the board then we back our bowling line-up to defend anything. Our bowlers are at the top of their game right now, it’s a unit that really understands its strengths.
“We adapted well. They were too hesitant going for the boundaries early on so we kept the ball on a good length and at the stumps. I felt their mentality was just about not losing early wickets and I was always confident our total was too big for that strategy.”
The Bharat Army now marches north to Nottingham, another win there and Kohli may struggle to curb their undiluted enthusiasm.