Ahead of the Test series against New Zealand, skipper Saurav Ganguly today sounded a warning bell to his teammates, saying no one should take his place in the side for granted as performance rather than reputation would be the criteria for selection.
Ganguly's comments, which comes a day before the training camp for the 36 probables winds up in Bangalore, are sure to renew hopes of fringe players hoping to break into the Test squad by their performance in the lead-up games.
"Slots are up for grabs. No one can take his place for granted," the Indian skipper said in an interview.
"Whoever does well is open for selection," Ganguly said to underline the emphasis on actual performance rather than records on paper.
Ganguly, who had earlier hinted that a couple of slots were up for grabs, said the team management had not yet taken a decision on who would don the wicketkeeping gloves during the series. But he did single out young Parthiv Patel and hinted he might be given the slot.
"Parthiv has done well. He has got very good hands behind the wicket. We want him to contribute a little bit more with the bat. He knows that and is working hard. I am sure he will."
The Indian captain, however, evaded a question on whether Rahul Dravid, who has hinted that he wanted to be relieved of wicketkeeping, would continue to double up in the one-dayers.
"We have to wait and see. It is a decision to be taken by the selectors and the team management," he said.
The 30-year-old Ganguly said the long break from international cricket will not affect the team's performance or motivation in the new season ahead.
"Definitely we want to do well. We had a long break. We just need to get back into our system and do well. We have been working hard in the camps and are confident of doing well," said the elegant left-hander.
Ganguly said his young team was determined to make amends for its dismal performance when it toured New Zealand late last year.
The skipper was not too bothered about reports that the Kiwis were resorting to unconventional methods of training to counter the Indian conditions and breaking their jinx of not winning a series in India.
"Well I don't know what kind of preparations they are undergoing. It's up to them how hard they work and how quickly they adjust to the conditions here. We will have to wait and see," said Ganguly whose team had struggled on green-top wickets in New Zealand.
Ganguly also said injured speedster Shane Bond's absence from the New Zealand squad would not affect India's chances though it was a blow for the Kiwis.
"There is no doubt that he is a quality bowler. Obviously New Zealand will miss him. But we have beaten them with Shane Bond in their ranks. So it does not really affect out chances."
Ganguly said the team was concentrating on the task at hand and not thinking about meeting their World Cup nemesis Australia whom they run into in the tri-series and then take them on in a full-fledged series Down Under later this year.
"At the moment we are looking forward to the series against New Zealand. That's coming first and then we will think about Australia."
Ganguly did not think a tour of Australia was the biggest challenge. "Every tour is a challenge. But obviously the World Cup is the biggest tournament in cricket. It was a huge challenge for me. We did outstandingly well but we were disappointed. We played so well but lost in the final. I would take the positives out if it -- we were the second best side in the world -- and go ahead with it."
Ganguly conceded that whenever India meets Australia it was as much a mind game as skills.
"Australia are a good side and they are playing well. Cricket is a game of mind and body and application in the middle."
The Indian skipper said he had not set any personal goals for the season ahead though he was keen to perform well.
"You don't set personal goals. You want to do well just like any other cricketer and you want the team to do well being the captain... so these are the two goals."
Ganguly refused to be drawn into the debate on sledging, triggered off by Sunil Gavaskar in his Colin Cowdrey lecture at Lord's recently.
"I just don't want to comment on that (sledging). It is a part and parcel of modern day cricket. We have got to go ahead with it."
But the Indian skipper has been getting a few lessons on mind games from none other than the former Australian skipper Greg Chappell.
"I spent a couple of hours with him at Sydney. I kept asking him about mindset and mind games," the captain said but did not elaborate.
Ganguly also brushed aside criticism by Bishen Singh Bedi that he was taking batting tips from Chappell although the team was being coached by John Wright, a specialist left-hand batsman.
"I just spent a little bit of time with him (Chappell). When you meet a great player you always talk about the game and you keep on learning like when you meet any other great cricketer."
Having carved a niche for himself both as a captain and player, is Ganguly giving a thought to retirement?
"I am just 30 (laughs). I think I can play for another six to seven years."