Fitness, and no other reason, is at the heart of Cheteshwar Pujara's exclusion from the Champions Trophy list of probables, MiD DAY learns
The fitness aspect negates talk that Pujara's exclusion was probably due to the fact that he would have to be a part of the India 'A' team to South Africa in June.
Pujara, who has been India's best batsman during the Test series vs New Zealand, England and Australia, fractured his finger during the fourth and final Test against Australia at New Delhi, but apparently, he also has a knee problem.
"I will take at least two weeks more to return to cricket. When I fractured my finger, during the Delhi Test, physios had advised me that I needed to take at least three-four weeks rest. I hope to be available for RCB (Royal Challengers Bangalore) by the last week of April, but at the same time I don't want to rush things," Pujara told the Indian Express recently.
It is learnt that the Saurashtra batsman's fitness has not been at its best for the last two Tests against Australia and the selectors will dwell on this aspect vehemently while finally deciding on who travels to England for the Champions Trophy, a tournament which India has triumphed in only once since 1998 by sharing the honours with hosts Sri Lanka in 2002.
Pujara opened the batting for India in Delhi after Mohali hero Shikhar Dhawan hurt his hand while fielding in the third Test. Pujara scored half centuries in both innings.
Some players who have either missed the bus or been included in the group have been told that fitness will be a big criteria for the final selection. Indeed, the selectors are sending out a firm message.