COLOMBO: When the Indian cricket team were on their flight to Sri Lanka, they were already the No 1 Test team in the world. The swagger and confidence increased tenfold when the troop, led by Virat Kohli, took on a side that is still under construction. Kohli’s boys whitewashed the Islanders (3-0) in Tests and there is little doubt that the visitors would clinch the ODI trophy too; a good sign for they haven’t been as consistent in the shorter format.

The Men in Blue hold the No 3 rank in ODI cricket and No 5 in T20s. Keeping mission 2019 in mind — as told by BCCI amid the head coach selection conundrum — what does the limited-over season ahead hold for Team India? With little ODI experience in the recent past — which includes the embarrassing loss to Pakistan in the final of the ICC Champions Trophy in June — the boys are all set to take on Australia (No 2), followed by a tour of South Africa (No 1 in ODIs) later this year.

Much of India’s success lies in picking specialists. If Cheteshwar Pujara helped the team scale greater heights in whites, Kedar Jadhav — with his occasional spin-bowling — has been handy in limited-overs. Since there are no Tests till the tour of South Africa, the long season will test the durability of the ODI specialists, which also comprises former skipper M.S. Dhoni.

“It is a great opportunity to define roles for players. They have ample time to execute it. Since we didn’t play enough ODI cricket in the last few months, we haven’t been consistent,” said Kohli, who scored an unbeaten 82 in the first ODI at Dambulla. “We need to create a momentum in the shorter format, like we have done in Tests. We also want to be the best fielding side on the park,” he added.

The 28-year-old is hopeful of Dhoni finding his impulse too, since he doesn’t play Tests anymore. “I think it will help Dhoni as he will be in touch with international cricket for a longer period. It is all about finding momentum and sticking to it. Not only him, but the same applies to other players in the team,” reasoned Kohli.

As of now, the skipper wants to test the bench strength. The players can expect a chance in rotation. “We played Axar Patel in the first match for the package he brings on board. He is also a handy batsman. But that doesn’t keep Kuldeep Yadav out of the proceedings. He has played the last Test and remains in our scheme of things. If we feel we don’t need much depth in batting in the remaining matches, we may play both of them,” he said.

Out of all players in the mix, all eyes will be on Hardik Pandya. The lanky all-rounder proved his mettle at the Champions Trophy, when he took on the Pakistan bowlers, with half of the team back to the pavillion. A mix-up with Ravindra Jadeja ended his brisk innings (76 off 43) but he had arrived.

Last week, the 23-year-old also slammed his maiden Test hundred (108). That’s not all, he is also a solid option to share the new ball. “He can swing the ball and can clock 135 kmph with good bounce. We look at him as a great option,” Kohli concluded.

Now, it remains to be seen whether the Kohli-Ravi Shastri partnership can recreate the wonderful world of Gary Kirsten-Dhoni.