Umar Akmal's international career appears to be at crossroads after the PCB omitted him from the list of 35 centrally contracted players for the year starting July 1, 2017. He was the most notable omission from the list, with his fitness having been a major concern for much of his career.
Akmal was originally named in the Champions Trophy squad but was axed after failing two fitness tests leading up to the start of the tournament in England. Akmal had previously been dropped from a tour of the West Indies in April for similar reasons. He was excluded from that squad after he was the only player, out of 31, to fail the fitness test during a camp held at the National Cricket Academy in March.
He was named in the national high performance camp organised by the NCA but pulled out, citing a knee injury. He informed the relevant officials - including head coach Mushtaq Ahmed - and excused himself for five weeks, during which he intends to undergo rehabilitation with his private trainer in England.
The selectors have handed out 15 new central contracts, with 10 players including now retired Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan dropped from the previous list of 30. Junaid Khan, who had been axed last year has been offered a Category C contract, while fellow left-arm fast bowlers Wahab Riaz and Rahat Ali have been demoted from Category B to C. Pakistan's lead seamer Mohammad Amir, meanwhile, was given an A grade contract.
Babar Azam and Imad Wasim were promoted from Category C to B while openers Sami Aslam and Shan Masood were retained in Category C along with Mohammad Nawaz - who has served out his two-month ban for failing to report an approach in the PSL 2017. The monetary value of the monthly retainer has also been increased by 10% for all categories.
"The central contracts were awarded after keeping in mind the performances, fitness, and discipline of the players," the PCB said in a statement. "A number of young players have been awarded central contracts this year keeping in mind that the national teams in all formats will be going through a transitional period after a number of retirements from last year's central contract list."
The selectors have also picked an additional wicketkeeper, Mohammad Hasan, in the list along with Sarfraz Ahmed - captain in all three formats - and Mohammad Rizwan, who was demoted from Category C to D.
Usman Salahuddin, who was given a contract in 2012 before fading away, has once more returned to national contention. As a possible contender for one of the vacancies in the Test team's middle order, he was given a Category D contract. Umar Amin, who has also been absent from the central contracts list for the past few years, returns in Category D. Bilal Asif, who was included in Category D, is the only off-spinner among the 35 players to be offered central contracts.
The PCB has named chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq's nephew Imam-ul-Haq in the emerging players category. He recently had a productive stint with Pakistan Under-23, scoring two back-to-back hundreds in Bangladesh. Asif Zakir, a batsman from Karachi, has also been rewarded with a Category D contract for successive prolific domestic seasons after he scored 791 runs in 10 first-class matches in 2015-16 at an average of 56.50, and 853 first runs at 85.30 in 2016-17.