India's coach Ravi Shastri has prioritised fitness, and wants his side to be the "best fielding XI" at the 2019 World Cup. Shastri's comments echoed those of India's chairman of selectors MSK Prasad who, while naming the squad for the upcoming limited-overs series in Sri Lanka, stressed fitness would be the key parameter while picking the World Cup squad.
"When the time comes for India to field a side for the 2019 50-over World Cup, we should have the best fielding XI in the world walking out," Shastri told the Times of India. "Only the fittest of the lot will survive and thrive going forward and that's right up there in the list of priorities."
India's 3-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka in the recently concluded Test series was Shastri's first assignment as coach since taking over the role from Anil Kumble. While admitting that the World Cup would be the focus going forward, he also outlined another goal for the team: keep excelling in Test cricket. Since the rain-affected one-off Test in Fatullah in 2015, India have won eight consecutive series and are only one short of equalling the world record.
"The World Cup has its own space that needs to be respected. And while that remains the goal, a fact also remains that if India need to show their real might in the game, then achieving results in Test cricket is the pinnacle," Shastri said.
"Now, these are two different sets of goals altogether. Both need to be pursued with equal amount of zeal and yet, both require a completely different level of preparation. Look at countries like England and Australia and how they perceive the game. Playing top-notch Test cricket and excelling in it is what they want to do. World Cups keep coming every four years and of course, we all understand its importance from a global and fan perspective. But if this team really has to be tested, then it's Test cricket and we have plenty of it coming up next year."
India's most recent series win in Sri Lanka was their first clean sweep away from home in a series of three Tests or more. Shastri put that down to discipline and said that he was pleased with the effort from the team.
"A disciplined approach is what counts," he said. "For instance, look at this series. Barring the two no-balls in the second Test from Hardik and one in the third game from Shami, we've not faltered. How many catches did we drop? Two? Going forward, that is what we need to avoid altogether. It's the effort that counts. If we have to look at the bigger picture, we're taking away more than what the scorecard will convey."