football on twitter
Please wait while we load football on twitter...
Alastair Cook has told his England side they can book their Champions Trophy places if they shine in India this month.
England's 50-over squad begin their five-match one-day series in Rajkot on Friday looking to win in India for only the second time.
Their last two attempts, in 2011 and 2008, ended in 5-0 defeats and successive warm-up defeats to India A and Delhi suggest the current crop will find life just as hard.
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, is a major blow to England's hopes but Cook sees a positive.
Several of the current squad party are not first-choice picks but the captain has told them a place at the Champions Trophy, held in England this June, could still 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 on the eve of the match.
"I think there is 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.
"Performances from people on this tour, if they perform really well, will mean it's really hard to leave out a player.
"It will be a good test of us as players, and especially those players who've been around now a little on the international scene, to try and step up and move into levels when they are producing match-winning performances."
England have plenty ahead of them before the International Cricket Council's 'mini World Cup' lands on their doorstep, with the ongoing series, a trip to New Zealand and a return visit from the Black Caps all to be contested.
But Cook makes no apology for highlighting the importance of a major tournament on home soil.
"I think it's a very important trophy," said Cook.
"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 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."
Friday's match is the first under new limited-overs coach Ashley Giles, who was appointed at the back end of last year to ease the workload on team director Andy Flower.
Jade Dernbach has been the pick of the seamers since arriving in India, so should play alongside Steven Finn and Tim Bresnan.
Chris Woakes and Stuart Meaker have both struggled in the warm-ups but appear to be in a head-to-head battle for the final bowling slot with spinner Danny Briggs yet to play on the trip.