Road to England 2019: Tours and tournaments Virat Kohli should play and miss before the ICC World Cup 2019
The world's best batsman at present and Indian skipper Virat Kohli has been suffering from minor injuries lately. The 29-year-old is India's all-format player and is believed to be the cricketer having the heaviest workload in the present scenario. Keeping his workload in mind, the Indian team management decided to rest him for the 14th edition of the Asia Cup, starting from today onwards.
The ICC World Cup is regarded as the pinnacle of world cricket. The 12th edition of the ICC World Cup is all set to be held in the 'Home of Cricket', starting next year on 30 May. If India wants to clinch their third ICC WC trophy in 2019, Virat needs to 100% fit and in-form.
Keeping this in mind, Virat Kohli and the Indian team management should be selective regarding the series which Virat should and shouldn't play. Excluding the Asia Cup and the IPL, India is scheduled to play 8 Test matches, 21 ODIs and 11 T20Is. Here are my opinions regarding the series or matches Virat should play and miss.
West Indies tour of India 2018 [3 Tests, 5 ODIs and 3 T20Is]
Virat Kohli needs to play the Test and ODI series versus West Indies. Since Virat is rested for the Asia Cup, Virat should look to score some runs against the comparatively weaker Windies side as India needs to travel to Australia for a full series in November this year. However, Virat should opt to rest for the T20I series, to minimize his workload. The Test and ODI series against West Indies would be a fine practice for the captain, before the all-important series versus Australia.
India's tour of Australia 2018-19 [4 Tests, 3 ODIs and 3 T20Is]
India's tour to Australia is without a doubt the most important full-time series for India before the CWC 2019. As a captain, Virat has already lost his first two overseas test series in the SENA countries. A test series victory against the Aussie side, hurt by the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner, would still be a tough job for the men in blue.
However, if Kohli manages to win versus a weakened Aussie side, he'll be able to mark his name in the book of history, with golden characters. So, Virat needs to play all the three series in Australia, to improve his captaincy records and create new history as well.
India's tour of New Zealand 2019 [5 ODIs and 3 T20Is]
India is scheduled to visit New Zealand for a 5-match ODI series and 3-match T20 series against the hosts. After the tour to Australia, this would be the second most important overseas tour for India, although no test matches are being played in the series.
Virat Kohli can't afford to miss both the series. No doubt, Virat must play all the ODIs as a preparation for the World Cup. However, if he feels tired after the ODI series, he should opt to miss the T20 series. Only if he feels fresh and energetic, he should participate in the T20 series.
Australia's tour of India 2019 [5 ODIs and 2 T20Is]
With the World Cup commencing just a few months after Australia's tour to India, Virat should try to score huge runs against the Aussies at home, just to boost his confidence before the grand event. Virat should look to play all the 5 ODI matches; however, he should also participate in the T20 series to continue his form, or regain it (if lost). This series would be vital not only for Virat but for the whole Indian team ahead of the World Cup event.
Zimbabwe's tour of India 2019 [1 Test and 3 ODIs]
Virat should miss the less-important series versus Zimbabwe. In fact, India should look to rest all of their main players ahead of the Cricket World Cup. Instead of playing the series, the major players should proceed to England earlier for more practice, as the lack of practice has hurt India badly in overseas conditions.
Zimbabwe's tour of India would be the final series for India ahead of the Cricket World Cup. However, India's biggest T20 festival, the IPL, is scheduled ahead of the World Cup. It's highly likely that the tournament will be shifted out of India, due to the national elections.
So, if the major Indian players are not rested for the World Cup, the tournament should be shifted to England, which is one out of the three countries (UAE & South Africa being the other two) which are being looked as the alternatives for conducting the IPL. If not, all the major Indian players should be given a complete or partial rest, just to ensure injury doesn't trouble India yet again.
In the conclusion, few Indian cricketers such as Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, etc. who play all the three formats and are injury-prone should also be rested along with Virat Kohli, to ensure their fitness ahead of the World Cup.