Virat Kohli focussing on player roles with 2019 World Cup in mind
What's the story?
With the 2019 ICC World Cup less than two years away, Indian skipper Virat Kohli believes that the time is ripe for the team to start identifying specific players for specific roles but also wants to ensure that the side doesn't become too predictable with their game plan.
"Two years to go for the World Cup and now is the time to give players certain roles to get into the groove and understand what we need to do," Kohli said. "(However) we are not going to be predictable or have a set pattern anymore in terms of what we are going to do in ODI or T20 cricket."
Kohli conceded that the competition for places in the batting department is a good headache and wants the likes of KL Rahul, Manish Pandey, Kedhar Jadhav and Ajinkya Rahane to give their best for a spot in the Indian middle-order.
"There are no guarantees I would say. As long as there is healthy competition, everyone will keep pushing each other and that is healthy for Indian cricket," the skipper said.
The 2019 ICC World Cup is high on India's agenda with Ravi Shastri given the target of winning back the trophy they won in 2011 under MS Dhoni's captaincy.
The Men in Blue narrowly missed out on the 2017 Champions Trophy losing to arch-rivals Pakistan in the final and Kohli wants to ensure that his team is fully prepared to go one better in two years' time.
The heart of the matter
India have been in rampant form in all three formats of the game and are already one of the hot favourites for the 2019 ICC Wolrd Cup to be played in England.
Heading into the 5-match ODI series against Sri Lanka on the back of a 3-0 whitewash in the Test series, India are expected to repeat their success in the 50-over format as well with former Indian skipper Sunil Gavaskar predicting a 4-1 win for the visitors.
Despite being overwhelming favourites, Kohli is not underestimating the Sri Lankan side and added that team selection and game plan will be devised based on the team's needs rather than on the opposition.
While chief selector MSK Prasad had commented that KL Rahul would be batting at the No 4 spot in the ODI series against Sri Lanka, the Indian skipper refused to give any such guarantee only specifying that he would be batting in the middle-order.
The five-match ODI series between India and Sri Lanka begins at Dambulla on August 20 before the action moves to Pallekele and then Colombo with the final match being played on September 3.
India's tour of Sri Lanka will conclude with the lone T20I which will also be played at Colombo on September 6.
India are a team high in confidence with their continued success on the field, but as was the case in the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy, all it takes is a bad day to undo all the good work.
As Virat Kohli said, it is vital that the team keeps all their options handy and plan well in advance to avoid the pitfall of predictability in time for the 2019 World Cup.
The competition for places is a good headache to have and it is important that all the players in contention are given adequate opportunities to showcase their credentials and make their case for a permanent spot in the side.