Gone are the days when only batting or bowling warranted a selection in the Indian National Cricket Team. With current leader Virat Kohli laying acute emphasis on not just the development and skills in the player’s specialised department, but also on his fitness, his troops too have to focus intently on raising their fitness levels. After Mohammad Shami and India A wicket-keeper Sanju Samson failed the fitness test a few weeks ago, in-form batsman Ambati Rayudu too missed his comeback train after he failed to live up to the fitness standards that have been strictly kept in place since the coaching days of Anil Kumble.

The yo-yo test that is in use to check the stamina and fitness of the cricketers worldwide is in use in India too, with team trainer and conditioning coach Shankar Basu setting a score of 16:1 for cricketers to achieve. If any players fails to breach the mark, seeing the trends in recent times, he has been dropped and has been asked to miss the bus. Hence players like Yuvraj Singh, Suresh Raina, Washington Sundar, Shami, Samson and Rayudu have made a mark in this infamous list, which has inevitably meant that they have had to miss out till they can achieve their fitness and prove themselves in yet another yo-yo test.

The test, which is held on a random basis, has a player shuttling between two cones. The cones are placed 20 metres away from each other and the player starts running towards the second cone after a beep has been sounded. He then, has to run from the first to the second cone before the second beep and come back to the first before the third beep. Hence, he has to run 40 metres to complete one “shuttle”.

However, what makes this test tougher is that as he moves from one shuttle to another, the time available keeps reducing. In the Indian camp, the players have to complete the first 40 metres in 10 seconds, and then 1080 metres in 557 seconds, excluding the 10 seconds cool-off period between each shuttle. While this is the prevalent cut-off in India, New Zealand have a tougher qualifying benchmark. Cricketers from New Zealand need to cross 2400 metres in 1170 seconds. Players from West Indies fall in the same bracket and even Pakistan have a tougher test than India; where players from the land need to cross 1560 metres in 778 seconds.

This test does have its advantages, as it massively helps in increasing the fielding standards of a country. In the by-gone era, the Indian squad hardly boasted of a good fielding unit, and except players like Mohammad Kaif, Yuvraj and Raina, the ground fielding had remained poor. With the advent of the yo-yo test, it has been observed that India has gone on to become one of the best fielding sides in the world. Players like Hardik Pandya, Manish Pandey and Ravindra Jadeja in the recent past have transformed the side with their dives and one-handed catches that have played a huge part in the success of the team in the last few years.

A player, who has been included in the team after passing the yo-yo test, can grasp the ball that is 20 metres away in less than 3 seconds, which will be impossible for a player who hasn’t. Not only this, his running between the

wicket will improve as well, and he will observe lesser injuries and a better recovery period in between flights and games. His speed, strength, aerobics and his stamina will shoot up as well, and the yo-yo test has been majorly seen as a huge boost.

However, Rayudu’s ouster from the side on the back of the failure to ace the test has brought with it its own questions. Is the importance on fitness so important that his form and his actual skills with the bat is ignored? If a side continues to focus all of its energy on passing the test, won’t it hamper the time that is given to his batting or his fielding? While the other nations are stern about the test, teams like New Zealand do not send back their players if in case they do not ace it.

Would someone like Chris Gayle pass through with flying colours? Will Sachin Tendulkar have passed the test? The answers are only rhetorical. The question then remains is, whether Rayudu would have been a better bet in England over his replacement Raina? Rayudu, who has been in phenomenal form in both domestic cricket and IPL, had to miss out due to his fitness, which wouldn’t have been as bad as say, Inzamam ul Haq’s. What if Kohli himself fails to ace the test sometime? Will he be dropped?

The Indian management has to decide whether they want to assemble together a bunch of Usain Bolts or actually piece together a cricket team who are masters in their own departments. While fitness is integral, it should not be the sole criteria for selection either.