India vice-captain Rohit Sharma on Thursday said that no one in the One-Day International squad playing in Australia is guaranteed a spot for the World Cup later this year.
India will play three ODIs against Australia and five against New Zealand to end their tour. They will then head back home and host Australia for five ODIs before the World Cup begins in the United Kingdom on May 30.
Sharma said that there won’t be too many changes in the Indian ODI squad between now and the World Cup, but made it clear that there are no guaranteed picks.
“I wouldn’t say every individual who is going to be a part of the next few series will play in the World Cup, but there won’t be a drastic change,” he told reporters in Sydney ahead of the first ODI against Australia on Saturday.
“Nobody is guaranteed that flight to England as yet. We’ve got to be in prime form each and every match. All of us are aware of it. We’ve got to make sure that we are ready for the World Cup.”
Sharma added that although the World Cup is less than five months away, there is still a lot of cricket to be played before then.
“There are 13 ODIS, four to five months to go before the World Cup, including two months of IPL,” he said. “There is a lot of cricket to be played. I think the 13 ODIs that we are going to play before the World Cup, you will see the same squad playing in the World Cup, more or less.
“There will be one or two changes keeping in mind form and injury concerns over the next few months. We’ve played a lot of cricket throughout the year so injuries are bound to happen.”
India have relied on their top order, which comprises Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli, to get them the bulk of the runs in ODIs in the recent past, but the vice-captain feels the entire batting unit will have to contribute if the team is to win the World Cup.
“It is very important not just for the top three but the six to seven batters who will be playing [to contribute],” he said.
“I always believe it’s not about one or two individuals. Individuals will probably win you one or two games but if you want to win the championship, the entire batting unit needs to come together.
“At some stage, everyone needs to put their hands up and say, ‘I will take up the challenge and take my team to the finish line.’”
Sharma is confident India’s middle order will be up to the task if the top order fails. “Our middle order definitely believes in going out there and taking up the challenge,” he said.
“We saw [Ambati] Rayudu coming pretty good in the last series we played in India [against West Indies]. Dinesh [Karthik] has done really well. MS [Dhoni] obviously is a key factor. Then, there is Kedar [Jadhav] who brings so much to the table with his bowling and his ability to strike the ball at the end.
“All these guys are very important, not to forget Hardik [Pandya] and [Ravindra] Jadeja, who will be playing a crucial role with the bat. That finishing touch is very important in this format.
“There will be times when your top order will fail. Then, the middle order has to take the responsibility and they know it. They have done it in the Asia Cup and against the West Indies. It’s looking pretty good right now.”
Sharma also stood up for former captain MS Dhoni, who was dropped for the T20I series against West Indies and Australia, before being brought back in for the ODIs in Australia and New Zealand.
“Over the years, we have seen what sort of presence he has in the dressing room and on the field,” Sharma said.
“With him being around, there is a sense of calmness around the group, which is very important. It helps the captain because he stands behind the stumps, he has been a successful captain for India.
“Him being around with the team is always helpful. He is like a guiding light around the group. Batting down the order, getting us past the line, that finishing touch is very important. He has finished so many games for us. That role that he plays is very important.”
On India’s historic Test series win in Australia, Sharma said the Indians focussed on the smaller things rather than looking at the big picture.
“Throughout the series, we did those little things right,” he said. “I think if you want to win the series, you can’t just look at the larger picture. You’ve got to focus on the smaller picture first and take one game, one single moment, at a time.
“When we reached Adelaide, we focussed on Adelaide. Then Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. The message was very clear from the start. We did that very well and we were rewarded with a series victory,” he added.