Indian cricket team selectors will meet on Friday to pick the squad for the five-match One-day International (ODI) series against Australia, starting on February 24, with the players' workload in perspective ahead of the ICC World Cup 2019, to be hosted by England from 30 May to 14 July 2019. India have won the World Cup twice in 44 years, with the last one in 2011 under the captaincy of MS Dhoni. After eight years, 37-year-old wicket-keeper Dhoni will be under the spotlight if he manages to secure a place in the Virat Kohli-led squad for World Cup.
Workload management of the stars will be on top of the mind when the selectors meet in Mumbai to pick the squad for the white ball series against Australia.
The Indian team is set to play two T20Is and five ODIs against the Aussies in what is set to be the last set of international games that the boys get before going into the 2019 World Cup in England, starting on May 30. The only practice they will get after this is in the Indian Premier League.
The selection committee will look at keeping the right balance as they would not only wish to give the senior guys ample rest before going into the showpiece event, but also wouldn't want to give the Australians the upper hand in what will be the last series before the World Cup. India has been playing incessantly overseas and the fast bowling wolf pack has had no real rest.
"Workload management of the senior players will definitely be the main area of discussion as we all know that the Indians have been on the road and the selectors and team management have made a conscious effort to ensure that the players get ample rest between games and series. Like you saw, regular skipper Virat Kohli was rested for the back end of the New Zealand series. You might see Rohit Sharma rested for some games here," a BCCI source said.
"But it is also important to note that the Indians would want to keep the foot on the pedal and ensure that they don't give the Australians any momentum going into the World Cup. A good series against India would mean a confidence booster for the team. So, there has to be a balance so that the composition of the team is not affected," he explained.
While Rishabh Pant is almost certain to get more game time, it will be interesting to see if someone like Ajinkya Rahane gets one last go to seal a place in the World Cup squad. In the bowling department too, Jasprit Bumrah is almost certain to make a comeback after a well-earned rest during the New Zealand series.
In fact, head coach Ravi Shastri has already made it clear that players will be monitored even during the IPL.
"We've been in touch with the BCCI and CoA in this regard. We have certain plans in place and we'll be looking to follow them. Usually, the two months of IPL are seen as relatively free months for me and I can just sit down and enjoy the cricket, watch out for new, young talents that keep emerging. But this IPL will be about monitoring the players, keeping the World Cup in mind," he said in a recent interview.
(With IANS inputs)