Virender Sehwag, Harbhajan Singh - ignored for the tour of Ireland and England - and VVS Laxman have been downgraded in the Board of Control for Cricket in India's (BCCI's) revised list of contracted players.
The one-year contract is from October 1, 2006 to September 30, 2007. A board release said that the "gradation was based on the performance of the players in the previous season", (October 1, 2005 to September 30, 2006). That explains why an in-form Zaheer Khan remained in Grade C while Irfan Pathan, who had a great season in the period considered but out of the team currently, was pushed from Grade A to B.
Newly-appointed ODI vice-captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Yuvraj Singh have been promoted from Grade B to Grade A, where they join Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly and Anil Kumble. The number of players in Grade A has been reduced from eight to six.
Ajit Agarkar has retained his Grade B contract while Mohammad Kaif, earlier in the same category, has been omitted from the list. Kaif's absence from any of the lists came as a surprise, considering that he had managed 330 runs in six Tests (at 47.14) in the mentioned time-frame.
Gautam Gambhir, Sreesanth, Wasim Jaffer and Suresh Raina remain in Grade C with the newly-inducted Munaf Patel.
The announcement of the new contracts was delayed by close to nine months owing to differences between senior players and the BCCI over their share of television revenue. The BCCI was keen on doing away with the gradation system and reduce match fees following India's dismal World Cup campaign.
In addition to match fees and a cut in the BCCI's profit, the BCCI gives an annual retainer of Rs 50 lakhs to Grade A players, Rs 35 lakhs to those in Grade B and Rs 20 lakhs for those in the final category.
Grade A: Rahul Dravid, Sachin Tendulkar, Sourav Ganguly, Anil Kumble, Yuvraj Singh, Mahendra Singh Dhoni.
Grade B: VVS Laxman, Harbhajan Singh, Virender Sehwag, Irfan Pathan, Ajit Agarkar.
Grade C: Gautam Gambhir, Wasim Jaffer, S. Sreesanth, Zaheer Khan, Suresh Raina and Munaf Patel.