Shafali Verma's promotion from Category C to Category B is the highlight of the latest round of central contracts handed out for India Women, but equally noteworthy is the omission of Ekta Bisht, the senior left-arm spinner who is in the squads for all three formats for India's upcoming tour of England.
The list has been trimmed from 22 to 19, and apart from Bisht, Veda Krishnamurthy, D Hemalatha and Anuja Patil have been omitted too, while Richa Ghosh has been included. The value of the retainers remain unchanged, with those in Grade A, the highest bracket, taking home INR 50 lakh. Grade B and Grade C are valued at INR 30 lakh and INR 10 lakh respectively.
Apart from 17-year-old Verma, who has been one of the most exciting new batters in the women's game worldwide, the others to win promotions from 'C' to 'B' were Punam Raut and Rajeshwari Gayakwad. Raut, the top-order batter, has been around for long, but had been out in the wilderness for a while before being brought back for the limited-overs series against South Africa at home recently, and she responded with a brilliant performance: 263 runs at an average of 87.66 and strike rate of 71.66 in the five ODIs.
Left-arm spinner Gayakwad was another of India's special performers, picking up eight wickets with an economy rate of 3.56 in the ODIs and four wickets at an economy of 4.75 in the three T20Is. Gayakwad won't be part of the England tour, however, as she continues to recuperate from covid-19.
The other player to gain in the latest update was Ghosh, another teenaged cricketer, who made her international debut - still one of only six matches she has played in national colours - in the T20 World Cup final at the MCG last year. She is part of Grade C. With the exception of fast bowler Mansi Joshi, every other member to have been offered annual retainers will be on the tour to England, where India will play a one-off Test, their first in seven years, followed by a limited-overs series.
Earlier last week, the BCCI had announced Ramesh Powar as the new head coach of the women's team, while also appointing SS Das and Abhay Sharma as the interim batting and fielding coach respectively.