The Pakistan Cricket Board edged Inzamam-ul-Haq further out of international cricket by not awarding the former captain a central contract. The door is not yet shut, the PCB were keen to point out, but it is looking increasingly unlikely that Inzamam will be involved in Pakistan's upcoming season in any capacity.
Inzamam's omission wasn't a surprise; local reports had predicted it sometime back. The new selection committee had hinted that it was time to move on and bring in middle order replacements, despite Inzamam's stated desire to play on in Test cricket. Inzamam was not, as Nasim Ashraf revealed, even in the 33 probables the selection committee had sent out of which 20 were chosen.
"It is not true that the board don't want Inzamam to play," Ashraf said. "Even if he isn't on the list he can still be selected to play. But I want to stress that selection will be 100% based on physical fitness."
The official reason for his omission was his retirement from ODIs after the World Cup; the board was keen to award contracts to only those who could play both forms of the game. One official, however, admitted to Cricinfo that, on form, Inzamam still warranted a place in the Test side and it was only the need to find new blood which kept him out.
In this light, the selection of Misbah-ul-Haq for a central contract, is particularly baffling. He last played a Test for Pakistan nearly four years ago, his last ODI was nearly three years ago and his record in either form of the game is modest. At 33, he doesn't represent new blood.
Another notable absentee in the contracted players list is Naved-ul-Hasan. After being adjudged Man of the Series in the ODIs against West Indies in December 2006, Naved had a mediocre away series against South Africa and only played one match in the World Cup 2007. He was then dropped for the subsequent tours to Abu Dhabi and Scotland and, much to his surprise, was omitted from the squad for the Twenty20 World Championship.
The new central contracts, to be put in place with immediate effect, will run initially till December. From January, new year-long contracts will be awarded. Pakistan's players had been without contracts since the World Cup, when the board suspended them in the aftermath of a poor display in the Caribbean.
The new contracts have been calculated on a set of criteria formulated by the board which give weightage to factors such as player performances in the preceding 12 months (40%), as well as to fitness (20%), discipline (20%) and seniority (20%). There remain three grades as before and for now, the retainers for each category are unchanged. Category A players will receive a Rs 250,000 monthly retainer, category B players Rs 150,000 and category C players Rs 100,000.
Additionally, match fees has also been increased for every player. "We have decided to base match fees on performances as well. The more experienced you have, the better you perform, the higher your match fees, so category A players will have the highest match fees. We discussed this with the players and they were keen to link it to performances. The fees have increased for everyone across the board," Ashraf said.
The board will pay approximately 20 players on the fringes of national selection a retainer of Rs 50,000 per month. The list has not yet been finalised but will include potential future players and selectorial recommendations.
Shoaib Malik, Mohammad Asif and Umar Gul have all moved up to category A in the new contracts, while Misbah, Imran Nazir and Yasir Arafat are new names on the list.
Category A: Shoaib Malik (capt), Mohammad Yousuf, Younis Khan, Shoaib Akhtar, Shahid Afridi, Umar Gul, Abdul Razzaq, Mohammad Asif
Category B: Salman Butt, Mohammad Sami, Imran Farhat, Mohammad Hafeez, Yasir Hameed, Danish Kaneria, Kamran Akmal (wk)
Category C: Imran Nazir, Rao Iftikhar Anjum, Faisal Iqbal, Misbah-ul-Haq, Yasir Arafat