Cook makes Champions Trophy pledge

India England

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Alastair Cook and Mahendra Singh Dhoni looked ahead to tomorrow's one-dayer in Rajkot

Alastair Cook has told his England players they can book their Champions Trophy places if they shine in India this month.

England begin their five-match one-day international series in Rajkot tomorrow, looking to win in India for only the second time in that format. Their last two attempts, in 2011 and 2008, ended in 5-0 defeats.

The absence of established stars such as the rested Jonathan Trott, Graeme Swann and James Anderson and the injured Stuart Broad, who is likely to be available for the last two fixtures only, limits England’s hopes yet Cook sees a positive.

Several of the tourists are not first-choice picks but the captain has told them a place at the Champions Trophy, held in England this June, could be on offer.

“I don’t know how many places are up for grabs but I would say a lot of them are,” said Cook.

“I think there’s a chance if people perform well and they’ve got the shirt at the moment. That’s what you want, you want competition and people pushing hard to put the people who are in the team now out.

Alastair Cook

Speaking of the Champions Trophy, Alastair Cook said: “I don’t know how many places are up for grabs but I would say a lot of them are.”

“Performances from people on this tour, if they perform really well, will mean it’s really hard to leave out a player.”

England have plenty ahead of them before the International Cricket Council’s ’mini World Cup’ lands on their doorstep, with this month’s series, a trip to New Zealand and a return visit from the Black Caps all to be contested.

However, Cook makes no apology for highlighting the importance of a major tournament on home soil.

“I think it’s a very important trophy,” he added. “We haven’t won an ICC 50-over tournament as an England side.

"So, as a group of players we’ve got an opportunity at home, in our conditions which we’re very comfortable in, to try to win that. I think it’s very high on my shopping list.”

While Cook is hopeful of some big performances from his team-mates, there is no sense of complacency.

England may go into the series ranked as the world’s number-one ODI side but their on-field leader is content to accept the odds are against an away win.

That was also the case in the Test series, which England turned around in dramatic fashion after losing the opener to win 2-1.

“Its tough to win out here and that is the challenge we have got on our hands,” he said. “It’s going to be a hell of a challenge, a bit like the Test series in one way.

“We have to do something that no English side has done for a long time. Clearly we are the underdogs but if you look through our side we have got a lot of firepower and a lot of world-class players.

“For us to win the series those world-class players and everyone in our squad is going to have to play out of our skin.”

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