Malik, Kamran Akmal denied central contracts
Shoaib Malik and Kamran Akmal have been axed from the PCB's central contracts list for 2014, while senior batsman Younis Khan has been demoted from category A to category B. Fast bowler Junaid Khan has been promoted from B to A, in the list of 31 contracted players.
Younis, a veteran of 89 Tests and 253 ODIs, was dropped from the one-day squad last year and since then has been a Test specialist. He earned a category A contract last year and was among the fittest players in the recently conceded summer camp but found himself demoted. Umar Akmal and Umar Gul were retained in category B.
Ahmed Shehzad, who played three Test matches against Sri Lanka in UAE earlier this year and scored a century in the World T20, was upgraded to B from C last year and remained in that category. Apart from Malik and Kamran, Imran Farhat, Aizaz Cheema and Taufeeq Umar were left out of the pool of contracted players this year. Both Malik and Kamran had been omitted from the month-long summer camp in Lahore, because the selectors weren't satisfied with their recent performances in the World T20.
Category D, also known as the stipends category, includes promising players like Sharjeel Khan, Ehsan Adil, Raza Hasan, Haris Sohail and Shan Masood. Test wicketkeeper Adnan Akmal, who injured his finger last year against Sri Lanka, was retained in category C, while his replacement Sarfaraz Ahmed was retained in D.
Fast bowler Mohammad Irfan, who was sidelined for nearly six months due to a hip injury, was slotted in the lowest category. The PCB said the factors considered were form, fitness levels and future potential. Irfan's injury prone history was the reason he was included in the lowest category. He is hopeful of playing limited-overs matches later this year but has ruled out appearing in Tests. He is optimistic of playing a big part in the World Cup next year.
The PCB increased the retainership by 25% for the second straight year despite Pakistan's average performance through 2013. They played eight Tests, winning two and losing five; 34 ODIs, winning and losing 16 each, and 12 T20s, winning eight and losing four. They also failed to reach the semifinals of the World T20 in Bangladesh.
The PCB had planned to reduce the number of central contacts to 22, but it was increased to 31. Last year, 30 contracts were handed out and for 2014, the idea was to downsize and retain only those who are likely to play throughout the year.
However, on releasing the list of contracts, the PCB said: "The 31 contacts are awarded to established players and young ones with future potential - with across-the-board increases in remunerations. The standout feature this year is that not only the monthly retainer has been substantively increased, but also match fees for Test and ODI cricket have seen steep upward revision."
Category A (Rs 449, 218 per month): Misbah-ul-Haq, Mohammad Hafeez, Saeed Ajmal, Shahid Afridi, Junaid Khan
Category B (Rs 314,452): Younis Khan, Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Akmal, Umar Gul
Category C (Rs 179,687): Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Adnan Akmal, Khurram Manzoor, Nasir Jamshed, Abdul Rehman
Category D (Rs 89,843) : Sohaib Maqsood, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Bilawal Bhatti, Sharjeel Khan, Zulfiqar Babar, Fawad Alam, Ehsan Adil, Mohammad Irfan, Wahab Riaz, Raza Hasan, Umar Amin, Haris Sohail, Rahat Ali, Shaan Masood, Mohammad Talha, Anwar Ali
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent. @kalson