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England have no weaknesses - Kohli

Prudence got the better of him, and he chose to turn in for a much-needed kip, but Virat Kohli's first instinct upon checking into India's team hotel in London on Thursday morning had been to go for a walk and a coffee, and savour the freedom that comes to all Indian cricketers when they escape the goldfish-bowl lifestyle of their subcontinental superstardom.

"I love walking by myself, not having people around at all," Kohli told reporters shortly after the team's arrival from Mumbai. "I love travelling away from home, and getting some normal time, which I'm not really able to do back home, because there's so much attention on you all the time."

These were not the words of a cricketer harbouring any angst about travelling to England in the current climate. On the contrary, despite describing Monday night's terrorist attack in Manchester as "really saddening and disturbing", it was hard to ignore the note of genuine excitement in Kohli's voice as he faced up to the challenge of leading India for the first time in a global tournament - and, moreover, defending a trophy that he helped them to win in the last edition of the tournament four years ago.

Kohli's formidable record in all formats and all conditions remains tarnished, in some people's eyes at least, by his failure to adapt to seaming conditions on the 2014 Test tour of England - although he reiterated he was not seeking "vengeance" for his modest tally of 134 runs in 10 innings on that trip.

Less well remembered, although brought sharply back into focus as he posed for the cameras with the trophy back in his mitts, was his winning contribution against England 12 months earlier, when his 43 from 34 balls proved the difference between the two teams in the 2013 Champions Trophy final at Edgbaston.

England may forever wonder how they failed to seal the deal on that occasion, after bringing their requirement down to 20 runs from 16 balls in a rain-reduced contest, before squandering four wickets for three runs in a 14-ball horror show. Nevertheless, the scenes of euphoria that greeted India's victory that night reinforced Kohli's reasons for relishing a return to familiar shores.

"I am very excited to be playing as captain in my first major ICC competition," he said. "As far as the team goes, we won last time because our fast bowlers did very well, our spinners were strong and our opening batsman did well.

"They were the main three factors. This year the team is a lot fitter, the cricketers are a lot more mature because that was a very young group four years ago. It has gained a lot of experience in the last three or four years. I love the tournament because it represents a challenge from the [word] go."

And few sides look better placed to mount a challenge than the hosts themselves. Even in victory on home soil earlier this year, Kohli saw at first hand the formidable power and never-say-die attitude of an England ODI batting line-up that currently ranks among the most potent in the world game.

In consecutive ODIs at Pune, Cuttack and Kolkata in January, England amassed totals of 350 for 7, 366 for 8 and 321 for 8, and yet somehow finished up losing the series 2-1, thanks in part to Kohli's magisterial 122 from 105 balls in the opening fixture. But they have not let up either side of that set-back, pounding nine 300-plus scores on the last ten occasions in which they have batted first.

"I think England are a very, very balanced side," Kohli said. "One of the two best balanced sides in the world at the moment. They bat right down to 9 or 10, they are all explosive players, five or six guys can bat and bowl, and they are gun fielders as well.

"We experienced that in India, they are pretty hard to get past, and that's something that is going to be a challenge for every other team in the Champions Trophy as well. We always related to England as a very strong Test team, but in last two or three years post [the 2015] World Cup, they've really changed the way they play their cricket.

"I don't think they've scored anything less than 330 now, which moves the game on pretty rapidly. It is indeed a challenge for all sides that play against them. Credit to them for shaping their short-format cricket so well, and I'm sure they'll be eager to go a long way in this tournament as well."

Last year, against Pakistan at Trent Bridge, England raised their bar even further by posting a record total of 444 for 3. Asked if he thought England had any weaknesses going into the tournament, Kohli had to concede: "Not at the moment, especially in their conditions, they are pretty strong.

"When a side plays in that manner for so long, when it doesn't click it goes against you pretty quickly," he added. "But they have managed to continue that mindset pretty well, I don't see anyone taking a backwards step at any stage of the game, and that is pretty amazing to see.

"For the whole batting line-up to play like that is pretty rare. You always have two or three guys playing through the innings, but for them it's all about attack, throughout the 50 overs which is exciting for the fans and challenging for the opposition. You have to be on top of your game to get past a team like that."