India's much-awaited new annual contracts - for a period between October 1, 2017 and September 30, 2018 - include a new A+ category for those who play international cricket in all formats, and a big pay hike for almost every contracted player. The new category carries a retainer of INR 7 crore (approximately USD 1 million); the previous highest grade was less than a third of that. Retainers in the lower grades went up similarly.
However, the contracts were a departure from last year's attempts to keep Test specialists among the top tier earners. Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, fixtures in India's limited-overs sides but always fighting for a spot in the Tests, made it to the newly introduced A+ category alongside captain Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. However, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane found themselves in the A category after having been among the best paid Indian cricketers last year.
M Vijay, too, previously in the top category, found himself in the second-best group. There was also acknowledgement that MS Dhoni doesn't play enough cricket to merit the top category he had retained last year. However, their retainer still went up from INR 2 crore (USD 300,000 approx) last year to INR 5 crore (USD 770,000 approx).
Dhawan's salary has increased by 1300% from last year, Rohit's by 600%, but Rahane's by only 150%. The dramatic increase in the scale is the result of constant negotiations between the players and the board after players expressed displeasure at their retainers when compared to those of their peers in other countries such as Australia and England.
The BCCI has also trimmed the contract list from 32 to 26. Kuldeep Yadav, who helped India win his debut Test, in Dharamsala, and also formed a formidable spin partnership with Yuzvendra Chahal in limited-overs cricket, was a notable new face. He joined Chahal in category B, which carries a retainer of INR 3 crore (approximately USD 460,000). Chahal jumped from C to B, giving him a six-fold increase. Apart from Rahane, Hardik Pandya, the allrounder, is the only all-format player not in the top category. He too went from Grade C to B.
Kedar Jadhav, almost a certainty in the ODI line-up when fit, drew Grade C. Dinesh Karthik, who made a comeback into both the limited-overs sides, and Suresh Raina, whose return was restricted to T20Is, both got a contract. Karthik got Grade B, and Raina C.
For the first time since 2015, the women's pay scale has been updated following a stellar performance in the World Cup last year. The top category went from INR 15,00,000 (approximately USD 23,000) to INR 50,00,000 (USD 92,000). Grade B increased three-fold from INR 10,00,000 (USD 15,000) and a new category of INR 10,00,000 was introduced. Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami and Harmanpreet Kaur retained their Grade A contracts, and were joined by Smriti Mandhana who jumped up from Grade B. Mumbai's new batting sensation Jemimah Rodrigues joined Mona Meshram and Punam Raut among others in Grade C.
The Supreme Court-appointed committee of administrators (CoA) said provisions were made to safeguard these retainers even if the BCCI profits go down. "The CoA recognises that the actual income of the BCCI fluctuates on an annual basis depending on the number of home matches Team India (Senior Men) plays," a BCCI release said. "Hence, to insulate the player compensation, the CoA has sanctioned the creation of a "Players Revenue / Compensation Equalization Fund" (PR/CEF) to which the BCCI will contribute approximately INR 125 Cr per annum from its surplus."