Cracking the whip on non-performers, national selectors on Monday axed the struggling duo of Yuvraj Singh and Yusuf Pathan and rested veteran Sachin Tendulkar from India's 15-member squad for this month's Asia Cup cricket tournament in Sri Lanka.
Tendulkar had sought a break to spend time with his children, while Yuvraj and Yusuf's ouster was on the cards after a series of disappointing performances in recent times as the selectors laid stress on form and fitness.
Flamboyant opener Virender Sehwag, who was laid low with a shoulder injury and missed the Twenty20 World Cup, returned to the squad while wicket-keeper-batsman Dinesh Karthik and leg-spinner Amit Mishra were axed.
"Sachin Tendulkar requested the Board not to consider him for the Asia Cup, as he wanted to spend time with his children, in view of the hectic cricket season ahead," BCCI Secretary N Srinivasan said in a statement after the selection meeting which lasted close to two hours.
20-year-old Jharkhand batsman Saurabh Tiwary, who was quite impressive in the third edition of the Indian Premier League, was rewarded with a berth in the Mahendra Singh Dhoni-led squad along with Bengal pacer Ashok Dinda.
"A lot of stress was given on the fitness of the players. Fitness and fielding are very important. We have gone through the record of last one year and put lot of stress on it. In recent past, we lost some matches or struggled in some matches because of poor fielding," chairman of selectors Kris Srikkanth told reporters.
"We also put stress on consistent performance. Lot of players have done consistently well and apart from the seniors, we have blooded some youngsters as well so that they know what international cricket is all about," he explained. Srikkanth said skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, who attended the meeting, also gave his inputs.
"It was a happy meeting with captain (M S Dhoni) and secretary (N Srinivasan) and I think the captain is also convinced. This is the best possible side. I'm not going to speak about any individual player," Srikkanth said.
The selectors, who had opted to rest most of the seniors for the tri-series in Zimbabwe, chose a full-strength team which included seniors like pacer Zaheer Khan, opener Gautam Gambhir and spin spearhead Harbhajan Singh.
Tamil Nadu off-spinner R Ashwin, who is also a decent batsman, has been retained in the squad. Left-arm spinner Pragyan Ojha returned to the team at the expense of leg-spinner Amit Mishra, who failed to make much of an impact in the disastrous tour of Zimbabwe. The team in Zimbabwe, which was led by Suresh Raina, couldn't make the finals of and suffered consecutive humiliating losses to the African minnows.
Although Raina has retained his place, other flops like Yusuf and Mishra have been shown the door. The pace duo of Abhishek Nayar and Sudeep Tyagi who had featured in India's squad during the home series against South Africa in February have not found favour this time around. The squad, a fine blend of youth and experience, has six specialist batsmen, four pacers, three spinners and an all-rounder in Ravindra Jadeja.
Captain Dhoni is the lone specialist wicket-keeper in the squad.
The squad: Mahendra Singh Dhoni (Capt), Virender Sehwag (Vice-Captain), Gautam Gambhir, Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Ravindra Jadeja, Harbhajan Singh, Praveen Kumar, Zaheer Khan, Ashish Nehra, Pragyan Ojha, Ashok Dinda, R Ashwin, Saurabh Tiwary. PTI