NEW DELHI: India’s new skipper Virat Kohli has his eyes firmly fixed on the 2019 World Cup as his side begins the year with a limited overs series against a new-look England starting Sunday.
Kohli, who led India to a 4-0 Test demolition of England last year, is now India’s skipper across all formats after Mahendra Singh Dhoni relinquished his ODI and Twenty20 captaincy early this month.
Following the Test triumph, the 28-year-old skipper returns to the helm against the Eoin Morgan-led side in three one-day internationals before the sides play three Twenty20 matches.
The swashbuckling batsman, who has been dubbed “King Kohli” by the Indian media, now has the task of preparing the third-ranked ODI side for its title defence in the Champions Trophy in June and eventually the World Cup in 2019.
“Just hearing about the World Cup gives me goosebumps,” Kohli was quoted as saying by the Indian board’s official website.
Kohli said he had played in two 50-over World Cups and a “couple of World T20s. But to captain India in the World Cup would be the biggest achievement of my life”.
While Kohli admitted that “these (Dhoni’s) are massive shoes to fill”, India coach Anil Kumble believes the bond between the two players will help the current captain find his footing.
“It’s great for the team have MS (Mahendra Singh) on the field with Virat leading the side… the bonhomie that they have will only help Virat grow as a leader,” Kumble told reporters.
India will also have the services of veteran batsman Yuvraj Singh, who is expected to make the XI after his half-century in the first warm-up in Mumbai.
Returning to the fold, batsman Shikhar Dhawan and fit-again Ajinkya Rahane, who cracked 91 to lead India A to victory in the second warm-up, are also expected to strengthen India’s batting line-up in the first ODI in Pune.
Meanwhile England will be no pushover in the limited overs segment as ODI and T20 skipper Morgan insisted that the team did not carry the baggage of their pre-Christmas loss to India.
“Since the squad got together there’s been no backlash or repercussion from any performance earlier in the tour and I don’t expect it to have any effect,” Morgan told reporters.
Morgan and opener Alex Hales have returned to the England side after skipping the Bangladesh tour due to security concerns as the tourists seek a first ODI series win in India since 1984-85.
Morgan’s ODI team enjoyed a successful 2016, winning 11 and losing five out of their 17 matches. They are presently coming off a run where they have lost only two out of 12 games.
“The next five months for us is going to be crucial… it’s not the be all and end all in this series but the confidence we would build winning here would be brilliant,” said Morgan.
England’s batting had shown their might during their successful 305-run chase in the first warm-up against the Dhoni-led India A with Sam Billings hitting a gutsy 93.
But Morgan’s own form seems to be a worry for the visitors after the left-handed batsman managed three and zero respectively in the two warm-up games against India A.
With new dad Joe Root, who joined the squad on Thursday, likely to make the starting line-up the tourists are expected to test India’s bowling led by premier spinner Ravichandran Ashwin.
England spinners Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid were hardly a patch on India’s Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja in the Test matches but ODI and T20 cricket could be a different ball game.
England have lost 50 of their 93 ODIs against India but have won their previous three outings against the Asian cricketing giants.
India ODI Squad: Virat Kohli (capt), Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Lokesh Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Manish Pandey, Yuvraj Singh, Ajinkya Rahane, Hardik Pandya, Kedar Jadhav, Ravichandran Ashwin, Amit Mishra, Ravindra Jadeja, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Umesh Yadav.
England ODI Squad: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jonathan Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes.