Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000
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The PCB has increased salaries across the board for the country's top women cricketers, as well as more lucrative financial incentives for domestic cricket. Bismah Maroof retains the captaincy, while Anam Amin and Umaima Sohail get full contracts. Maroof finds herself promoted to the highest category A, as does Javeria Khan, while Nida Dar, who became the first Pakistan women's player to participate in the Women's Big Bash League in Australia last year, drops down from Category A to C due to a "below par season", according to women's chief selector Urooj Mumtaz. A sustained run of poor form with the bat appears to have cost 28-year old Sidra Ameen a central contract, while 22-year old left arm spinner Nashra Sandhu also drops out of the 9-woman list.
Sana Mir's retirement means nine central contracts this year, as opposed to 10 last year but it also means that in two years, the number of centrally contracted women's cricketers has nearly halved. Two years ago, 17 women were awarded central contracts, a number the current PCB administration brought down last year. Mir's exit ostensibly leaves a hole no player has been able to fill, and the trade-off is an increase in the quality of the contracts. Category A players see their earnings rise by a third, while Category B and C players will have their remuneration increased by 30% and 25% respectively. Domestic cricketers experience a significant boost as well, with match fees and event prize money doubling at that level, while daily allowances increase by 50%.
In addition, an emerging contract list of nine promising women's players has been created. ESPNcricinfo understands they will be paid retainers, with the category in effect serving as a vote of confidence to the players believed to be knocking on the door of centrally contracted players most earnestly.
Mumtaz said: "On behalf of the selection committee, I would like to congratulate all the players who have received the central contracts. The selection committee had detailed deliberations prior to announcing the central contracts. International performances over the past 12 months, fitness standards and the players' ability to contribute in both white ball formats were key measures that formed the criteria for the selection.
"Bismah and Javeria have been promoted to Category A, following leading performances with the bat in the last year. Diana Baig has been promoted to Category B and she joins Aliya Riaz and Sidra Nawaz - both of whom have been retained in this category - as she topped the T20I bowling charts for Pakistan in the last 12 months.
"We had to take some tough decisions and would like to emphasise and encourage those who have missed out to take this as an opportunity to improve their game and make a strong comeback. I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate Bismah Maroof on retaining her leadership role in both ODI and T20 formats for the upcoming season. She has been a phenomenal performer and has risen to the occasion whenever the situation demanded.
"I am extremely delighted to announce the emerging contract category. The addition of this category will incentivise players to remain dedicated to the game, importantly increasing the pool of players and creating a competitive environment at the junior level."
The Pakistan national women's team is scheduled to feature in the ICC Women's Cricket World Cup Qualifier and the ACC Women's T20 Cup in the next 12 months, while an U19 team will feature in the inaugural ICC U19 Women's T20 World Cup.