Pakistan players with central contracts could lose 25 percent of their monthly retainers if they fail to keep to fitness levels prescribed by the National Cricket Academy during a month-long camp in Lahore in May-June. Fitness had been given greater priority as part of a new clause in the central contracts.
Three of the 31 players in question failed to appear for an evaluation held between September 6 and 8. Shahid Afridi, who was out of the country, Nasir Jamshed, who was married recently and Wahab Riaz, who was with his new-born daughter who was in hospital, could not make the tests, but can reappear at a later date.
"This was a follow-up to the fitness camp we held in Lahore where players were told they now had to meet a standard set by the coaching panel and fitness trainers at the NCA," Mohammad Akram, the NCA head coach, said. "These tests were held to see whether the players have followed the procedures to maintain fitness standards given to them in the fitness camp."
Umar Gul might also be in line for a pay cut. He has yet to recover from his knee injury, which according to Akram is severe, so there might be some leniency. The results of the fitness test are yet to arrive, but the PCB was reluctant to disclose the names of players who hadn't made any improvement.
Akram said players have shown "35 percent to 48 percent" progress, with 50 being the goal. "There is a definite improvement as players apart from those who were on the [Sri Lanka] tour have also maintained their fitness despite being away from the competitive cricket and that's the spirit we wanted to develop.
"A player in the off-season might get relaxed [about his fitness], but the contract would keep them on their toes. I can't disclose the results but but some players with a high level of fitness are Younis Khan, Shan Masood, Ahmed Shehzad, Umar Amin, Bilawal Bhatti and Asad Shafiq. And even the players I felt may fall down with their lack of fitness have shown a significant development."
Mohammad Irfan's fitness has been a major talking point since he made his debut in international cricket. He has recovered from his hip injury, however, and played the ODI series against Sri Lanka.
Akram suggested the need for careful management where Irfan was concerned. "We have adopted caution in his case, but he is fit and needs match practice. He will get in full flow the more cricket he plays. Unfortunately, the domestic season is yet to start and he is lacking competitive cricket but we have to manage his workload and will only consider him for the one-dayers."