Mithali Raj and MS Dhoni, two stalwarts of the Indian cricket teams, have had their contracts cancelled and downgraded, signifying a shift in the BCCI’s vision for the future.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) released its list of annual central contracts for men and women, with clean indicators that it is looking at moulding things for the future. Mithali Raj, the skipper of the Indian women's ODI team, was demoted to the second tier where she joins veteran pacer Jhulan Goswami, while former men's team captain MS Dhoni finds himself without a contract for the current season (2019-20).
Raj, who had a Grade A contract will now have a Grade B deal in which she will earn Rs. 30 Lakh per annum. The demotion came following Rajs retirement from T20Is. BCCI, reportedly, has a set criteria for contractual grading, and hands out top retainers only to those star players who are available for selection in all three formats of the game.
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The Board retained the Grade A deals of Harmanpreet Kaur, the T20I captain, Smriti Mandhana, the T20I vice-captain, and Poonam Yadav. The trio will get Rs 50 lakh each as an annual retainer, which is the same as 2018-19.
Meanwhile, Shafali Verma, 15, became the youngest woman cricketer to receive a BCCI central contract after getting included in the Grade C pool of players. Top-order batters Harleen Deol and Priya Punia were the other two players who were included in the list for the first time. Left-arm spinner Radha Yadav and wicketkeeper Taniya Bhatia, who possessed Grade C contracts (Rs 10 lakh) last year, were promoted to Grade B.
'Dhoni Was Informed First'
Dhoni's omission from the central contracts list was imminent and he was duly informed before the national selection committee finalised the names, a top BCCI official was quoted by the Press Trust of India (PTI). However, if the former skipper makes it to the T20 International (T20I) squad this year, he might be re-inducted on a pro-rata basis even though the chances of that happening are remote. The 38-year-old's omission was not unexpected as he has not played any international cricket for over six months.
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"Let me clarify that one of the top-most BCCI office-bearers spoke to MS and told him about how they are going about in the central contracts. He was clearly told that since he hasn't played any game in the said period (September 2019 till date), he cannot be included for the time being," the official said.
"There will be an Asia Cup T20 (likely to be shifted from Pakistan) and if Dhoni plays a certain number of matches, he will be automatically included. It's not like he has been dumped for good. It's just that he doesn't qualify because he has not played," the official added.
The existing rule for awarding central contracts is that a player needs to compete in a minimum of three Tests or eight ODIs to qualify. He can also get in by playing a stipulated number of T20I games (depending on the season when there are more T20Is).
"Like Washington Sundar has played 21 T20 Internationals and at least more than 10 in the current season and with more T20s this year, he got a contract. Similarly, Wriddhiman (Saha) had a group C contract last year when he was injured.
"To get into group B, currently, you need to play three Tests and he fulfilled the criteria during the home season. Same for Mayank Agarwal. That's how it works," the official explained.
"If Prithvi Shaw is selected in the Indian team and plays just one more Test, he will get a Grade B contract on pro-rata basis," he added.
Asked if Dhoni might announce ODI retirement after this development, the official was evasive. "That is something only Mahendra Singh Dhoni knows and no one else," he said.
CONTRACT LIST (Women)
Grade A (Rs. 50 lakh): Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana and Poonam Yadav
Grade B (Rs. 30 lakh): Mithali Raj, Ekta Bisht, Jhulan Goswami, Shikha Pandey, Deepti Sharma, Jemimah Rodrigues, Taniya Bhatia, Radha Yadav
Grade C (Rs. 10 lakh): D Hemalatha, Anuja Patil, Veda Krishnamurthy, Mansi Joshi, Arundhati Reddy, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Pooja Vastrakar, Harleen Deol, Priya Punia, Punam Raut, Shafali Verma
CONTRACT LIST (Men)
Grade A+ (Rs. 7 cr): Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah
Grade A (Rs. 5 cr): Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, KL Rahul, Shikhar Dhawan, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma, Kuldeep Yadav, Rishabh Pant
Grade B (Rs. 3 cr): Wriddhiman Saha, Umesh Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Hardik Pandya, Mayank Agarwal
Grade C (Rs 1 cr): Kedar Jadhav, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Manish Pandey, Hanuma Vihari, Shardul Thakur, Shreyas Iyer, Washington Sundar.
(With inputs from PTI)
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