Chief selector MSK Prasad today said the core of the Indian team for the 2019 World Cup will be identified in the next four to five months through a rotation policy.
Pacers Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav along with leading spinners Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja were rested for the upcoming series against Sri Lanka and rotation was precisely the reason for the move.
"We have identified some set of players who will be considered for the next 4-5 months and we will rotate them. After those 4-5 months we will come to a picture that these are certain players who will go on to play the 2019 World Cup," Prasad said after India completed a series whitewash.
"We have initiated this process of rotating and resting our main players, so we will see how some of these youngsters do over the next few months or so, and then we will take a call by the end of the year," said Prasad.
Prasad also announced that opener KL Rahul will bat at number four in the upcoming ODI series.
"We have 22 to 24-25 players in mind. 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," Prasad said.
"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, that's what we saw in the Champions Trophy, we will start with KL in that particular order. 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 added.
Prasad also made no bones about the fact that Indian players need to improve their fitness standards, failing which they won't be considered for selection. The chief selector laid down the marker for 2019, outlining a new selection policy based on fitness.
"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. We are trying to fix some fitness parameters and whoever it has to strictly adhere to those parameters.
"We have two to three phases in those parameters leading up to the 2019 World Cup and if someone fails to match to those parameters, he will not be considered irrespective of whoever it is," said Prasad.
"In skill-level, we are number one in the world, but when it comes to fitness, we need to raise our standards. The players sat with the selectors and fixed certain parameters as a benchmark. This is the fitness parameter, this is the body texture, etc.
"You will get an official release on that because it is the BCCI who has to give. But we have fixed those parameters. They have to match them. Today the entire world has got those standards. Even Pakistan has got certain parameters. Though we are slow, I am sure we will definitely catch up," he added.
The focus is also on senior players like MS Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh, both on the other side of 35 at present. Prasad outlined that they, including Suresh Raina, are still very much in contention.
When asked about Rishabh Pant's exclusion, Prasad replied, "He is one talent to watch out for the future. We have been grooming him for A-tours. He went to South Africa on the A-tour but had a pretty ordinary tour. But that doesn't mean he is not on our radar. There is one more tour coming up.
"We all know Rishab Pant more as a Twenty20 player, so we will look at him in that format also. From the beginning we have been saying, see for instance Hardik Pandya, we picked him because he was a Twenty20 specialist, the more T20s and ODIs, he started playing, the more he has progressed to the Test format also. Similarly, whoever is comfortable in one particular format, we will bring them into that format, nurture them, and see that they go onto play the other formats," he explained.