Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo
India allrounder Hardik Pandya and senior batter Shikhar Dhawan have suffered the biggest slides in the new set of annual contracts finalised by the BCCI and its selectors. Also getting demoted are the senior trio of Ishant Sharma, Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara. In contrast, Shreyas Iyer, Mohammed Siraj and Axar Patel have all levelled up.
The annual contracts - running from October 2021 to September 2022 - were ratified by the BCCI's Apex Council late on Wednesday. The Apex Council also finalised former India fast bowler Abey Kuruvilla as the general manager cricket development, a position that was left vacant since February after Dhiraj Malhotra left on January 31.
No fresh additions were made to the A+ category, worth INR 7 crore (USD 930,000*), with the trio of India captain Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli and Jasprit Bumrah retaining their contracts.
It was the Grade A slab (INR 5 crore or USD 660,000) that was trimmed severely from 10 in the last cycle to half that number. Pandya and Dhawan have dropped from Grade A to C. Pandya, who had moved from Grade B to A in the 2020-21 cycle, has suffered with fitness issues over the last two years and has not played for India since the T20 World Cup last October. Dhawan, meanwhile, has become more of a one-format player in the least year, with the selectors favouring him in 50-overs cricket and little else.
Many will wonder as to why Rahane, Pujara, Ishant were handed Grade B contracts (down from Grade A last season) when none of them were considered for the two-match home Test series against Sri Lanka starting on Friday. Chetan Sharma, India's chairman of selectors, had pointed out that he had spoken to all three players, along with Wriddhiman Saha, about how his panel wanted to give youngsters more chances without closing the door on the seniors. Barring Saha, the other three players have featured in the league phase of the Ranji Trophy, to keep their chances of returning to the national team alive.
Iyer, Siraj and Axar, who featured in the last cycle in Grade C (INR 1 crore or USD 130,000), have all been moved one rung up on the back of their consistent performances over the last year. Another key player, who has featured for India in all three formats, bowling allrounder Shardul Thakur, retained his Grade B contract.
* All USD values are approximations where 1 USD =75 INR