Rohit Sharma may have been in and out of the team often in the seven years since he made his debut against Ireland in 2007, but India skipper Virat Kohli is of the view that the talented Mumbai batsman could be the X-factor at the 2015 World Cup in Australia and New Zealand.
Rohit was forced to pull out in the middle of the English tour in August after sustaining a finger injury but bounced back with a match-winning 111-ball 142 against the Sri Lankans in the tour match prior to the ongoing ODI series.
Kohli said the opener will get his preferred slot when India takes on the Lankans in the fourth ODI in Kolkata on Thursday.
"If a player like him gets going he can be the X-factor in a tournament like the World Cup. When he gets going, he can bring those big runs and wins the match for you. His value for the team is massive; it's great to have him back.
"Most probably, he would bat where he had batted in the past. It's all about giving him confidence as much as we can before going into the World Cup. These two games and the tri-series in Australia will certainly help him get into his groove at the top of the order. We will be looking at giving him as many overs to bat as possible," Kohli told reporters on the eve of the fourth ODI.
Talking about Rohit's 141 in his comeback match after a two-month injury lay-off, Kohli said: "The good thing about him is he doesn't really change himself or his game after getting success or failures. That's one of his biggest strengths.
“That's why even after such an unfortunate injury in England and going out half way when he was batting well and comes back and gets a hundred in the first game he plays against Sri Lanka. It shows the mental toughness that he possesses.
"We all are aware of how good he's with the bat. He brings a lot of positivity to the team. He's a good thinker of the game. In the past, when he was leading the side, he's always up for discussions. He brings a lot of value into the team. Especially knowing that the World Cup is round the corner it's great to have him back," he added.
Besides Rohit, Robin Uthappa is also back for the last two ODIs of the five-match series, which India leads 3-0, and Kohli said the Karnataka batsman will don the gloves.
"The wicketkeeper will be Robin Uthappa. He's been brought in as wicketkeeper-batsman; he's kept in the IPL also. He's done really well with the clubs. It's an opportunity for him to show his skills both with the bat and gloves which can be handy for us in the future," Kohli said.
Referring to Uthappa's exploits with IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders, he said: "The reason he's been picked regularly is the way he batted in the IPL. It was no slogging but proper cricketing shots, full of self-belief against the best bowlers of the world. The way he batted was very impressive. It's important to keep him nice and confident."
India also had a positive outcome in the series in the form of pacer Umesh Yadav, who is the leading wicket-taker and is bowling at raw pace of 150kph.
Kohli said it's a great positive as they would love to have an all-out pace attack in Australian conditions.
"We would like to have pace up front with Ishant (Sharma), Varun (Aaron) and Umesh (Yadav). The all-out pace attack is something we'll look forward to in the coming months. That's an area of strength we'll look to build in the Indian team. It will be a change of character as well. We never really had two bowlers bowling with 150kph."
Kohli said Yadav has become smarter and more consistent, something that will help India's cause.
"I always believed Yadav is someone... if he got more consistency with his bowling when he played in the past he would have been right up there with the best bowlers in the world. He's got the fitness, strength and is a naturally strong guy who bowls at pace.
"He swings the ball with a rhythmic smooth action, he's a good fielder. He's got everything and just that the consistency bit was lacking in the beginning. Now he's improved on that; he's a much more smart bowler now. I'm really impressed with him."