Mumbai: The Indian team for the upcoming ODI series in Zimbabwe is missing some key players, including inspirational captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who have been rested, but skipper for the tour Virat Kohli Friday described the squad as a strong one.
"I don't think experience matters, especially in limited overs game. You need 11 players, who are hungry for success, who are hardworking and whose vision is team victory. All 15 players are strong and it is a strong unit, which is good," said Kohli at a promotional event here for Mattel Toys.
India are to play against Zimbabwe in a five-match series from July 24 to August 3. The squad is without Dhoni, R Ashwin, Bhuvaneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav and Ishant Sharma. Kohli said if the team performs in a manner similar to its display over the last month-and-a-half, then it will be good for Indian cricket.
"I can't guarantee. If we continue this way, it will be a good time for Indian cricket. A lot of things that would make people happy," he said. The team, led by Dhoni, first lifted the ICC Champions Trophy in England and then clinched the tri-series in the West Indies, in which Sri Lanka was the third outfit.
The 24-year-old, who has played 108 ODIs and also featured in the 2011 World Cup winning squad led by Dhoni, said he liked to lead from the front and set an example to others. "I always like to lead from the front and set an example for whoever is playing with me or around me. I like taking responsibilities. That is a natural thing for me," he said.
Kohli, who has been made the face of superhero toy Max Steel, said he aimed to be fearless. "The best quality is to not be afraid of anything. Even if you have seniors or players with lot more experience in your team, you need to have confidence in your ability and think you can lead them. It is important you set an example with your performance quickly and then you gain respect.
"If the respect is mutual between players and captain then the side is successful. It comes from performance and when you win matches for the team, that inspiration spreads in the team," he said. Kohli also welcomed all-rounder Parvez Rasool, the first player from Jammu and Kashmir in the national squad, as a deserving pick.
"It is a good sign that players are not just coming from major cities. You can see everybody is working hard and the thinking is not narrow-minded in India. It is a good sign that he (Rasool) has been selected. If he gets the opportunity to play a match then I am sure he will try to give a good performance."
Kohli termed veteran player Sachin Tendulkar as his superhero and said he dreamed to win matches for India after watching his idol bat. "It has always been Tendulkar and it will be Tendulkar for life. He is someone who has inspired me immensely. Just watching him play for India, I used to dream of winning games for India, because he used to do it single-handedly.
"I just had a vision and got a chance to play with him and do something like that. He has been my superhero and he will be for my lifetime," he said. Asked if he ever wished for superpower, he said, "When I was walking into bat in 2011 World Cup final when my idol got out...I felt I was playing in a field where there is no one else apart from me, but 11 other Sri Lankan players. So it was totally quiet. So I wish I had some superpowers so I could do something really special".
Kohli also slammed players alleged to have indulged in corrupt practices like spot-fixing in the Indian Premier League that rocked Indian cricket recently as "villains" who needed to be punished. "Hero is a person who respects the game and does not corrupt the game. The one who doesn't (respect) or corrupts the game, they are the villains. They should be punished and they have been punished in the past," he said.
A few Rajasthan Royals players, including Test pacer S Sreesanth and first class cricketers Ajit Chandila and Ankeet Chavan, were arrested of spot-fixing in IPL by the Delhi police and are presently out on bail. Kohli termed his unbeaten knock of 133 against Sri Lanka in Hobart February, 2012 as "special" and said it gave him lot of confidence. Riding on his ton, India chased Lanka's huge score of 320 and won by seven wickets.