Ahmedabad: India are looking at the ongoing ODI series against Sri Lanka mainly as preparation for the World Cup and home team's captain Virat Kohli on Wednesday said the recent performances of the pace bowlers, especially Umesh Yadav, has given him a lot of hope going into the mega-event.
"I have been very impressed with Umesh (Yadav) since he came back (from injury). He has been bowling quick and has also been consistent, not inconsistent any more," said Kohli ahead of the second ODI tomorrow.
"He's hitting good areas with good pace and that's giving the batsmen trouble on flat wickets like the other day as well in Delhi against the West Indies (in the abandoned series) when his opening spell was really nice. He's working on his death bowling as well," said Kohli.
Talking about other members of pace attack, Kohli said: "Ishant (Sharma) has been playing Test cricket for a while now so he knows what to do and how to do it. Obviously he will have good and bad times. He also bounced back pretty well after not having such a very good ODI season.
"Coming closer to the World Cup it's great to see all these guys bowling really well as a stronger pace attack in Australia will give us an added advantage," said the stylish batsman.
Kohli also praised the batting, India's strongest suit for years, and said the idea was to try out different players in different batting positions in the ongoing five-match series.
"The batting has come together very nicely over the past one or one and half years. It's not like it has happened recently, it's a gradual process and the guys are more comfortable batting in their spots. The whole idea of this series is to try different people at different positions and see how they react to those situations, but it's not like neglecting the fact that we have to win the games.
"It's obviously keeping in mind that those guys are good enough to play in those positions and able to win those games for us. It's all about infusing that confidence into people and they will end up giving you the result. So this is just a phase leading up to the World Cup," said Kohli.
Kohli also singled out five likely candidates to fill in the all rounder's slot in the World Cup and capable of delivering it big like Mohinder Amarnath did in 1983 and Yuvraj Singh did in 2011. "We have had a few people coming in now. (Ravichandran) Ashwin has been more than good with the bat in certain situations, a very intelligent cricketer. There is (Ravindra) Jadeja and everyone knows how capable is he. He's been a perfect all rounder for us.
"Now we also have Axar Patel whose temperament has been amazing. He has a very good temperament, I have seen him in the two games now and in IPL, he's a very strong character. We have Stuart Binny as well as a fast bowing all rounder.
"All rounder has been the X factor for us in previous World Cups. Any of these four people or even (leg spinner) Karn Sharma can be very handy with the bat. Come the World Cup you can have any of these people come up and be the star of the tournament. We definitely have many options. Even if one has a brilliant tournament it will be very helpful for us," he said.
Kohli said that Jadeja has been left out of the team to give him some rest after he had played non-stop cricket, besides giving new comer Patel chance to grow in confidence.
"The decision not to play Jadeja was more to figure out how much we need to play him before the World Cup. He's been playing non-stop cricket it's about managing that (work load) from team management point of view. Other than that we were looking to give more chances to Axar as well as we believe he's a confident guy, he's got the right kind of temperament to deliver at the right situations for the team.
"It's just to keep a guy like him in confidence knowing he can be an important member of the ODI scheme of things as of now. In the last game as well to go out there and hit 2 sixes off first two balls and, that too very difficult shots in pressure situations, the kind of composure he showed was very impressive. With the ball as well he's very brave, does not lose his consistency in bowing. He backs himself a lot which is very important. It's great to see him growing in confidence with every game," said Kohli.
About his penchant to take the second power play earlier than normal, Kohli said it was an instinctive call. "It's more an instinctive thing? I am a sort of a person who if I feel something needs to be done (I will do it). If I instinctively feel something needs to be done I end up doing it rather than not doing it and sort of thinking later that I should have tried it. You rather try and make a mistake and learn from it than not trying anything at all.
"I instinctively decided to take batting power play knowing well that they had just put on the part time bowler. Because both our players (openers Shikhar Dhawan and Ajinkya Rahane) were closer to a milestone they were probably looking to take out those five-six overs at that point of the innings and that turned out to be crucial for us. We ended up scoring 10 runs an over (in fact 62 in five overs) both got closer to their hundreds. And the milestone, which was fifty, was out of their minds immediately and that worked pretty well for us," he explained.
Kohli has been nominated as one of the four players in the running for the ICC ODI player of the year award. He feels his second nomination for the honour is more satisfying as it shows that he is a consistent performer.
"Well I have been nominated twice, the first (time) I won it (2012-13) and this is the second time. The first time was special because I ended up winning it. This is more satisfying because you know you have been able to repeat that performance which is always a challenge for a cricketer," said Kohli ahead of leading India in the second ODI against Sri Lanka here tomorrow.
"I am really happy with the nomination and hopefully I can keep up the performance and be recognised like this the every season I play," said the Delhi batsman who celebrates his 26th birthday today.
Kohli struggled to get going in the last Test series in England and the poor form continued in the succeeding ODI series too in which he had one 40-plus score, so basically he has got the nomination for his outstanding show in the previous months.