Following the BCCI's naming of the list of contracted players for 2012-13 on Friday, we take a look at who made moves and who slipped from the previous list. The annual retainers are worth Rs 1 crore for Grade A, Rs 50 lakh for Grade B and Rs 25 lakhs for Grade C.
The big gainers
Tamil Nadu's R Ashwin has been rewarded for his successful run in Test cricket since making his debut against West Indies in November 2011 with a Grade A contract from the BCCI for 2012-13. This is a straightforward decision and one based on merit, and it is clear that the BCCI sees Ashwin as their lead spinner for the considerable future.
Irfan Pathan is also a big beneficiary of the BCCI’s announcement, having been without a contract for two seasons. Irfan, 27, made his international comeback in December 2011 after more than two years and has been a feature of India’s ODI and Twenty20 team since. In that time, he has taken 21 wickets in 13 ODIs and 12 wickets in eight T20s.
Cheteshwar Pujara has been cited as the long-term replacement for Rahul Dravid for some time and enhanced his reputation with a maiden Test century at No. 3 in his comeback match against New Zealand this year. The BCCI’s decision to put him in Grade B is clearly indicative of what they expect from the 24-year-old batsman.
Umesh Yadav's presence in Grade C comes after his first full year in international cricket. Yadav made his debut against West Indies in November 2011 and in eight Tests since has taken 28 wickets, apart from playing four ODIs since October of last year. He is clearly seen as the future leader of India’s pace attack. Ajinkya Rahane, another long-term Test prospect, has been promoted from Grade C after impressing in his ODI appearances in the past year.
Bengal’s Ashok Dinda was awarded a Grade C contract after an impressive domestic season in which he was the leading Ranji Trophy wicket-taker and earned a recall to India’s limited-overs squads. Joining him in Grade C was Tamil Nadu seamer L Balaji, who returned to India’s Twenty20 side in Sri Lanka after a strong IPL season, and Baroda allrounder Yusuf Pathan.
Dinda is a significant gainer and the BCCI’s decision indicates that he is being looked at as an investment. Dinda recently took seven wickets in an innings during the Duleep Trophy semi-finals – his team, East Zone, went on to win the title for the second year in a row – and he could be in the fray for a spot in India’s Test squad to face England next month.
The contract news is also big for Balaji, whose international career appeared to have hit a standstill until IPL 5 when he was a big reason for Kolkata Knight Riders making the final. Yusuf last played for India in March and his inclusion is something of a surprise, because he did nothing of note in the Champions League Twenty20 or the Challenger Trophy at home before that. Before that, Yusuf had a lackluster IPL 5.
The decision that will meet with the most criticism is that of Harbhajan Singh receiving a Grade B contract. Though this is a demotion after previously being in Grade A, the fact that Harbhajan will draw a fixed income of Rs 50 lakh from October 2012 to September 2013 makes little sense. Harbhajan only recently found himself back into the Indian setup after a year in the wilderness and how four wickets in two matches during India’s failed run in the ICC World Twenty20 merits that kind of financial security is indeed a content_cnious matter.
Of the other eight players with Grade B contracts, five – Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha, Pujara, Yadav and Rahane - feature in India’s Test and ODI plans. Irfan Pathan is a fixture in the ODI and T20 starting XIs and Rohit Sharma fairly certain to be named in the limited-overs squads. Harbhajan has not featured in India’s Test or ODI squad since August 2011, when he returned midway through the 4-0 Test whitewash in England after picking up an abdominal muscle strain. On the domestic front for Punjab and in the 2012 IPL he was decidedly substandard, and just what the new selection panel makes of Harbhajan’s future is not clear.
Ishant Sharma is the other notable loser in the BCCI’s scheme after being demoted to Grade B. Ishant has struggled with mixed form and injury and was sidelined for IPL 5 as well as India’s short tour of Sri Lanka in July-August. His absence from the game and injury-prone nature appears to have gone against him.
Besides Harbhajan and Ishant, others who have been demoted include Praveen Kumar and Ravindra Jadeja, both of whom have been moved from Grade B to C. Praveen has not played for India since March, following poor form in the CB Series and Asia Cup. Earlier, he had missed the Tests in Australia due to a chest injury. Most recently, he was ignored for the Rest of India squad that ended up winning the Irani Trophy. Praveen openly expressed his frustration at being sidelined by the selectors despite having recovered from injury. Jadeja was dropped from India’s ODI team after a poor run in the CB Series and has not been considered for the T20 squad after an indifferent IPL season.
Out in the cold
Sreesanth has been dropped from the list of contracts and his future remains bleak. He last turned out for India in the Tests against England last August and has played one first-class match since. He underwent toe surgery in May but has not any competitive cricket since IPL 5. Saurashtra fast bowler Jaydev Unadkat, who was previously in Grade C, has also not received a contract.