India prioritise fitness on road to 2019 World Cup

India’s chairman of the senior selection committee, MSK Prasad revealed that the committee had a definite plan ahead of the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup. Prasad addressed the press one day after India’s squad for the ODIs and the lone T20I against Sri Lanka was announced.

A host of regular players, including Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Yuvraj Singh and Umesh Yadav among others, were rested from the limited-overs squad and some fringe players were given the chance to prove their worth. Prasad said that the plan was to give the players around four-five months to show what they can bring to the table. He also added that in nine to ten months’ time, the selection committee would be able to identify the core group of players it wants to play in the 2019 World Cup in England.

“We have started a policy where we have identified some set of players who will be considered for the next 4-5 months and we will rotate them,” Prasad said in Pallekele, where India were playing Sri Lanka in the third Test. “After those 4-5 months, we will (know) that these are the certain players who will go on to play the 2019 World Cup.

“In that process, we have started rotating the players and resting some of the main players so we will see how some of these youngsters do, how they will fare in the next coming months or so. And then take a call by the end of the year.”

“To be precise we need to give due recognition to performance at domestic level and also to the A tours. That is the very purpose of having domestic and A tours also. At some point of time we have to give opportunities for those who have done well otherwise there is no point in having such tours,” he added.

Prasad also revealed that the selection body felt that fitness was a key issue that needed to be addressed. He said that they will come up with certain fitness parameters, and players will be picked only if they are able to satisfy those factors.

“If I put my hand on my heart and say after the Champions Trophy, we felt that, we need to be a fitter and a stronger side. We felt that we need to raise our fitness levels and we need to raise our fielding standards.

“I like to officially tell you that, you will also get an official note from the BCCI, I will tell that we are trying to fix some fitness parameters and whoever it is has to strictly adhere to those parameters. We have two to three phases in those parameters leading upto the 2019 World Cup and if someone fails to match to those parameters, he will not be considered irrespective of whoever it is.”

“Yes, after the Champions Trophy, personally the committee and I felt that we need to be much stronger. (With respect to) skill-level, there are no two ways. Skill-level, we are number one in the world, when it comes to fitness, we need to raise our standards.

The players and selectors sat and fixed certain parameters. This is the fitness parameters, this is the body texture. We have fixed those parameters. They have to match them. Today, the entire world has got those standards. Though we are slow, I am sure we will definitely catch up.” Prasad said.

Prasad added that they have already identified a certain pool of players who they will rotate over the coming months in order to fix upon the perfect combination for the World Cup. He said they have around 22 to 25 players in the pool, and the players will be given chances to perform for India.

“We have 22 to 25 players. We will be rotating them and we will see how they progress. After a certain period of time, we will keep on shortlisting so that we can focus on them at least eight months to one year leading up to the World Cup. Doors are never closed on anybody. Everybody has got a right to play cricket. It’s their passion. They are chasing their passion. In terms of selection, we try to select the best possible team,” he added.

One of India biggest problems in recent times has been the No. 4 position. Yuvraj Singh’s lacklustre form in the Champions Trophy has meant that the position has become a bit of a revolving door. Prasad said that they will play KL Rahul, who usually opens the batting for India, at number four during the Sri Lanka-India series while Shikhar Dhawan and Rohit Sharma open the innings.

“We are going to try out KL Rahul at No. 4 in this series. He is too good a player to sit out. Because Shikhar and Rohit are in very good form. These are different permutations and combinations we will keep trying till the end of this year and it will boil down to one particular pattern and then we will continue with that,” he said.

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