Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag and Harbhajan Singh find themselves out of a central contract for the 2013-14 season, while Gautam Gambhir and Yuvraj Singh find themselves downgraded in the BCCI's retainer list, released on Thursday.
Suresh Raina is the surprise inclusion among the five players in the highest grade; the others are captain MS Dhoni, Sachin Tendulkar, R Ashwin and Virat Kohli.
The list also features five players who were not rewarded with a contract last year. They are Bhuvneshwar Kumar (Grade B), Mohammed Shami, Ambati Rayudu, Jaydev Unadkat and Mohit Sharma (all in Group C).
While Zaheer and Sehwag featured in Grade A last year, Harbhajan was included in Grade B. ESPNcricinfo understands that they were axed because none of them is assured of a place in the team in any of the three formats. Their exclusion need not, however, be the end of their career, because BCCI rules say that any non-contracted player who features in any international match during the contract period is awarded a Grade C contract for the rest of the tenure.
Ravindra Jadeja, Shikhar Dhawan and M Vijay have been upgraded from Grade C to B for their "exceptional" performance in the last contract cycle, while Rahane's demotion on the reverse route was due to the fact that he has failed to make most of his limited opportunities.
Tendulkar's mention in Grade A may have raised quite a few eyebrows since the veteran batsman is making his last international appearance during India's second Test against the West Indies. However, since the annual retainers are awarded on a pro-rata basis, Tendulkar would be eligible for two months' compensation since the beginning of the retainer cycle in October. Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman were also named in the top category and were paid proportionately during the 2011-12 cycle.
The list has been pruned from 37 last season to 25, the BCCI's rationale apparently being that many players had started taking an annual retainer for granted. "The list was extended last year in order to give fringe players the confidence. But now the Board feels only those who are in line of an India call-up should be awarded an annual retainer," a Board official said.
The contracts, decided by a three-member committee of the BCCI comprising president (N Srinivasan), secretary (Sanjay Patel) and chairman of selectors (Sandeep Patil), run from October 1, 2013, to September 30, 2014.