Krishnamachari Srikkanth did not say it in so many words but the selection committee chairman today gave ample hints that lack of fitness cost Yuvraj Singh his place in the Indian team for the Asia Cup in Sri Lanka. "This is the best possible side...I'm not going to speak about any individual player," Srikkanth told reporters, preempting questions on Yuvraj's exclusion.
Fitness has been a problem with Yuvraj, who seemed to have gained weight of late and was seen fielding in the deep and not in his customary point position.
Srikkanth said fitness was one of the main criteria while picking the Indian squad and captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was happy with the selection. "A lot of stress was given on the fitness of a player. Fitness and fielding are very important. We have gone through the record of last one year and did a detailed analysis. It was a lovely discussion with the captain. This is the best possible squad and I think the captain is also convinced," Srikkanth said.
"In recent past, we lost some matches or struggled in some matches because of poor fielding. So the selectors put lot of stress on fielding," he explained.
Consistency was another factor in the selection process, he said. "We also put stress on consistent performance. Lot of players have done consistently well and apart from the seniors, we blooded some youngsters as well so that they know what international cricket is all about," he said.
Talking about India's tri-series debacle in Zimbabwe where the second-string squad under Suresh Raina lost twice to the hosts, Srikknath refused to call it a setback. "I think it was all for the good in the sense that it allowed us to test the youngsters. How else do you test the youngsters? People say our selection backfired but how? We wanted to know how good some of the youngsters are and know who are good enough to play in the next level and who all need some more time," Srikkanth said.
"Some people have this habit of blaming the selectors when things go wrong but ultimately it's the players who go out and play. After the current selection committee took over, India became number one Test team and number two in ODIs. I think as selectors, we made our little bit contribution," said the chief selector. "Don't get carried away by one or two series. If we became the number one Test team, the process began in 2005 when we started winning abroad under Sourav Ganguly and then had Rahul Dravid and Anil Kumble. It's all about a process," he said.