Malik, Hafeez dropped from PCB's pruned annual contracts

Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez were in the A and B category respectively for the 2018-19 season AFP

Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez have been dropped from the PCB's annual central-contracts list for the 2019-2020 season. The board has trimmed the pool from 33 to 19, reducing the number of categories from five to three. Only three players - Babar Azam, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Yasir Shah - have been included in the top-most bracket. The players' performances and prospects were taken into consideration under the new system, which sees a significant increase - in the range of 25-40% - in the financial value of the annual contracts.

Malik, who recently retired from ODIs, and Hafeez were in categories A and B respectively last year. Other important demotions include Mohammad Amir and Fakhar Zaman, who were in categories A and B respectively last year are now in category C, and Test specialist Azhar Ali, who averaged 28.23 last year, and was demoted from category A to B.

Imam-ul-Haq, Haris Sohail, and Mohammad Abbas, meanwhile, have been promoted from category C to B. Asad Shafiq was retained in B.

Amir's demotion comes in the wake of his retirement from Tests while Malik's decision to only play T20Is may have played a part in his omission. Asif Ali, who has been among Pakistan's major investments in the recent past, was left out along with Junaid Khan, Hussain Talat, Bilal Asif, Mohammad Nawaz, Ruman Raees, Rahat Ali, Usman Salahuddin, Sahibzada Farhan, and Saad Ali.

The PCB's new annual contracts will be valid from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020, with Pakistan playing 42 days of international cricket, including 32 in Tests, in the next 12 months. Although the focus of the shortlisted pool has been around backing young players, the PCB, commenting on the exclusion of Malik and Hafeez, said both players 'will remain available for selection'.

At age 38, Hafeez's prospects on the international circuit appear somewhat bleak. At the World Cup, the bowling allrounder scored only 253 runs at an average of 31.62 in eight innings and took two wickets in seven innings. In Tests, over the past 12 months, he has amassed only 200 runs in nine innings while his performance in ODIs - 507 runs in 18 matches, at an average of 33.80 - has been lukewarm at best. In the shortest format, though, he has been prolific, averaging 81 in six innings since August last year.

Given the PCB is without a selection committee at the moment - chief selector Inzamam-ul-Haq had decided against renewing his contract once his stint ended in July - the list of contracted players was drawn up by the PCB director Zakir Khan (international cricket operations), Haroon Rasheed (domestic cricket operations), Muddasir Nazar (director, National Cricket Academy), and Wasim Khan (managing director, PCB). Once a new selection committee has been named, it will be able to add players to the contracts list.

"We have significantly increased the financial value of the 2019-20 retainers across each category," Wasim said in a statement. "This is over and above what had been agreed in the current agreement, which is due to run until 2021.

"The PCB have set high standards and targets in its strategic plan for the upcoming season. We want to attach a high value to receiving a central contract. We have complete faith and confidence that these players will set up and produce on-field performances that will help us collectively achieve our objectives and targets."

Category A (PKR 1.1m) : Babar Azam, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Yasir Shah
Category B (PKR 750,000) : Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Abbas, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi and Wahab Riaz
Category C (PKR 550,000): Abid Ali, Hasan Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Rizwan, Shan Masood and Usman Shinwari

Out: Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Faheem Ashraf, Junaid Khan, Bilal Asif, Saad Ali, Mir Hamza, Umaid Asif, Sahibzada Farhan, Mohammad Nawaz, Rumman Raees, Asif Ali, Hussain Talat, Rahat Ali, Usman Salahuddin
Players who were demoted: Fakhar Zaman (B to C), Mohammad Amir (A to C), Hassan Ali (B to C)
Players who were promoted: Haris Sohail (C to B), Imam-ul-Haq (C to B), Mohammad Abbas (C to B), Wahab Riaz (C to B), Shaheen Afridi (E to B), Mohammad Rizwan (E to C) (edited)