In a clear indication that the time for experiments was over, Chief Selector Dilip Vengsarkar on Thursday said emphasis would be laid on picking a winning combination for the two upcoming home ODI series in view of the World Cup in March-April.
A day before the selection committee meeting at Rajkot to choose the Indian squad for the first two ties against the West Indies and 30 probables for the World Cup, the former India captain also said that all those who had done well in domestic cricket stood a good chance.
"We are keen to pick a winning combination. We want to win every game before the World Cup. For us winning combination is very important. All those who have done well in domestic cricket will be considered for selection," Vengsarkar said on the sidelines of a media conference to announce the Baskin Robbins seven-a-side tournament for under-17 players.
Vengsarkar refused to comment when asked whether players like Virender Sehwag and Irfan Pathan would be axed, saying it would all be decided by the entire selection committee, captain Rahul Dravid and coach Greg Chappell who will attend the meeting.
"These matters would be discussed at the meeting in the presence of the captain and coach and a decision will be taken. Performance and fitness are very important," he said.
Asked about Pathan, the former middle order batsman said it was wrong to say that he was sent back home before the end of the Test rubber in South Africa to play domestic cricket without the bowler's consent.
"We told him it would be in his best interest to go back and bowl more overs in domestic cricket and he agreed," he said.
Elaborating further on the Pathan issue, Vengsarkar said he was a very talented player but was struggling to rediscover his bowling form.
"We all thought it was in his best interest and in the interest of his bowling that he goes back and bowls a lot of overs in domestic cricket. He's a fine player and I am definite he will come back," he said.
Vengsarkar said Munaf Patel was not hundred per cent fit when playing the last Test at Cape Town and squarely put the blame on the player for not disclosing he was not totally match fit.
"You could see he was not hundred per cent match fit. Match fitness is different from physical fitness and physio John Gloster found him physically fit, but it was upto the player to say whether he's match fit or not," the former India skipper said.
Speedster Patel had hurt his ankle during the early part of the One-Day series in South Africa and was reduced to being a mere spectator for most of the remainder of the tour before playing the final Test.
Vengsarkar also made it clear that injured batsman Yuvraj Singh, who practised today at the Cricket Club of India under the watchful eyes of Cricke Board physician Anant Joshi and the selection panel chief, would have to prove his fitness in match situations before he could be considered.
"Yuvraj is a very important player. But he needs to play some matches and prove his fitness in match conditions before he can be considered for selection," Vengsarkar said.
Asked what he and coach Chappell had discussed with Shashank Manohar, one of the vice presidents of the BCCI and a vocal advocate of performance-linked pay packet for the players, yesterday at Nagpur, Vengsarkar said the discussion was related to "the future of Indian cricket".
According to informed sources, the meeting, called at the instance of the coach and selection panel chief, lasted for two hours.
Incidentally, both Chappell and Vengsarkar are part of the committee that will decide on the contracts for the players which are yet to be signed.
Vengsarkar also took the opportunity to spell out the importance of top players taking part in domestic cricket.
"Domestic cricket must get its importance. All players must play in domestic cricket. In their absence it's difficult to judge the performance of the others."
The former India batsman and veteran of 116 Tests also felt that in future Twenty20 cricket might sweep the 50-over game off its pedestal.
"Twenty20 is the future of cricket. If you want to globalise the game this is the ideal format for spreading it. The 50-over game has become monotonous and I can's say what its future is following the advent of Twenty20 cricket."
But the former captain was not convinced that bowlers do not have a role to play in the shortest format of the game.
"I don't agree with that view. Bowlers do have a part in this format," he said.
Vengsarkar also said that it was important for the Indian players to play domestic Twenty20 games ahead of next September's World Championship in South Africa.