Ishant Sharma, Rohit Sharma and S Badrinath, who have been widely labelled as the future of Indian cricket, were the biggest gainers in the BCCI's annual players' contracts list that was announced today. While the young trio moved up from Grade D (Rs 15 lakh) to Grade B (Rs 40 lakh), Rahul Dravid, who has been struggling for form over the last season, was retained in Grade A, the top bracket of Rs 60 lakh.
Other promotions for 2008-09 were on expected lines with VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Gautam Gambhir and Virender Sehwag stepping up from Grade B to join Sachin Tendulkar, Zaheer Khan, Yuvraj Singh and Dravid. Irfan Pathan, Munaf Patel and Suresh Raina have also climbed a rank higher from Grade C (Rs 25 lakh) in the list of 37 cricketers.
Despite speculation that new performance-based clauses would be introduced this time, Ratnakar Shetty, the BCCI's chief admistrative officer told Cricinfo that "there has been no change to the graded system that was in place last year". He said a board committee comprising Shashank Manohar, its president, N Srinivasan, the secretary and Kris Srikkanth, the chairman of national selectors, prepared the latest list, which is valid up to September 30, 2009. "The committee picked players based on the performances in the last season [2007-08]," said Shetty.
While Ajit Agarkar and Ramesh Powar no longer figure on the new list, a notable drop is that of wicketkeeper Dinesh Karthik's, from Grade B to Grade D, which is for fringe players. S Sreesanth, who missed most of last season due to an injury, also fell a tier down to Grade C while Robin Uthappa was downgraded to Grade D.
Aakash Chopra, the former India opener who was the highest domestic run-getter last season, is a prominent omission. Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble were also among the absentees on the list after retiring from international cricket last month.
Last year, the contracts process had generated some debate with the BCCI planning to introduce performance-related clauses after India's World Cup debacle in the West Indies. However, the board finally stuck to the graded system after discussions with senior players. With no change in the format once again, the players were not part of the contracts finalization process this time, officials said.
Grade A (Rs 60 lakh)
Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Zaheer Khan, VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Gautam Gambhir, Virender Sehwag, Yuvraj Singh
Grade B (Rs 40 lakh)
RP Singh, Munaf Patel, Suresh Raina, Rohit Sharma, Ishant Sharma, S Badrinath, Irfan Pathan
Grade C (Rs 25 lakh)
Piyush Chawla, Wasim Jaffer, Yusuf Pathan, Praveen Kumar, Pragyan Ojha, Amit Mishra, S Sreesanth
Grade D (Rs 15 lakh)
Dinesh Karthik, Robin Uthappa, Parthiv Patel, Manpreet Gony, Cheteshwar Pujara, Mohammad Kaif, Virat Kohli, Ashok Dinda, Wriddhiman Saha, Chetanya Nanda, M Vijay, R Ashwin, Shikhar Dhiwan, Sudeep Tyagi