LAHORE      -       The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Thursday announced to hand out better-paying year-long central contracts to 19 cricketers.

The number of the contacted players has been cut down from 33 to 19, as it will help increase the competition amongst the players, the board sources said and to have the contracts as a tool to incentivise the hard work put in over the course of the season.

“All-rounders Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik have not been awarded contracts but they will remain available for selection,” a PCB spokesman said. Malik and Hafeez were criticised for poor performance in the recent Cricket World Cup 2019, where Pakistan failed to qualify for the semifinals due to low net run rate. After Pakistan’s disqualification, Malik had announced his retirement from one-day international cricket.

Pakistan play 42 days of cricket till the time these contracts expire i.e 31 July 2020. A four-man committee, including Wasim Khan (Managing Director), Zakir Khan (Director International Cricket), Haroon Rashid (Director Domestic Cricket) and Mudassar Nazar (Director Academies), with the inputs from head coach Mickey Arthur, whose contract expires on August 15, jotted down the 19 names considering their upcoming on-field commitments.

The new contracts see an increase of 25-40 percent in the monthly retainers. The salaries, according to the new framework, will be drawn from August 1, since the previous contracts had been extended till July 31.

PCB Managing Director Wasim Khan said: “We have significantly increased the financial value of the 2019-20 retainers across each category. This is over and above what had been agreed in the current agreement, which is due to run until 2021.

“The PCB has set high standards and targets in its strategic plan for the upcoming season. We want to attach a high value to receiving a central contract. We have complete faith and confidence in these players, who will setup and produce on-field performances to help us collectively achieve our objectives and targets,” he said.

Though the number of contracts remains 19, the board’s sources said that those, who have missed out in the contracts, will be receiving better-paying contracts from the provincial associations. And, when the new selection committee will be installed, they will have the option of adding more players to the PCB’s central contracts list.

Pakistan has retained Babar Azam, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Yasir Shah in the apex category. The decision, it is understood, is being taken because Babar and Sarfraz are not only Pakistan’s mainstays across all three formats. With 30 days taking up Test cricket out of the total of 42 playing days, Yasir Shah, with 38 wickets in seven Tests in the previous season, will be Pakistan’s spearhead for a major chunk of the coming season.

Babar, the right-handed top-order batsman, has been in prime form throughout the last year. He was the highest run-getter for Pakistan in Tests and T20Is with 619 runs at an average of over 47 and 505 runs at 56.11 per dismissal respectively. Though his 1,424 runs in ODIs were the second most for a Pakistani over the last one year behind opener Imam-ul-Haq’s 1,543, but his batting average of 56.96 was the best.

Sarfraz has been rewarded for impeccable wicketkeeping and leading Pakistan to crucial wins in crunch situations – in the last four World Cup group matches and to a Test series win against Australia in the UAE late last year.  Youngsters in Imam, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Mohammad Rizwan, along with Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Abbas, and Haris Sohail have also been rewarded for their performances as they have been promoted from category C to B.

However, Azhar Ali who faced a dip in form with his Test batting average hovering around 37, have been demoted to category C from B. Fakhar Zaman and Hasan Ali have also been bumped down on the same lines. Since Mohammad Amir had announced his Test retirement – and Pakistan’s limited-overs cricket is only for 12 days – so the left-arm pacer has also been put in the C category from A last year.

PAKISTAN CRICKET TEAM’S SCHEDULE

(From July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020)

v Sri Lanka 2 Tests 3 ODIs 3 T20Is (split tour)

v Australia 2 Tests ------- 3 T20Is

v Bangladesh 2 Tests ------- 3 T20Is

Central Contracts for Pak Players

Category A Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed and Yasir Shah

Category B Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq,

Asad Shafiq, Mohammad Abbas, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Wahab Riaz

Category C Hasan Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Amir, Imad Wasim, Abid Ali, Mohammad Rizwan, Shan Masood and Usman Shinwari