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Fatima Sana and Kainat Imtiaz added to expanded Pakistan Women contracts pool

Bismah Maroof, who is on maternity leave, retains her place in category A

Umar Farooq
Umar Farooq
There are now 12 players across the A, B and C categories, up from nine last year  •  Getty Images

There are now 12 players across the A, B and C categories, up from nine last year  •  Getty Images

The PCB has increased its number of centrally contracted women players across the A, B and C categories from nine to 12, and awarded 10% salary hikes in each category. Bismah Maroof, who is on maternity leave, retains her place in category A, while Fatima Sana and Kainat Imtiaz have been promoted from the emerging category to category C. Wicketkeeper Sidra Nawaz, meanwhile, has been demoted from B to C.
Left-arm spinner Nashra Sandhu is the only player to have earned a new contract while Nida Dar, who dropped down from A to C last year, has been promoted one level to B. While the number of players in the top three categories has gone up, the emerging category now has one fewer spot, going down from 9 to 8. The PCB has announced that the one remaining spot is open to be earned.
"To ensure that the players who have not earned central contracts stay motivated, we have announced an open spot in the central contracts to be awarded to one player for outstanding performances during the year," said Urooj Mumtaz, head of the women's selection committee. "I am sure this will act as an incentive for the players, who are gearing up for what promises to be an exciting series against West Indies in Antigua."
Pakistan Women are presently in the West Indies for three T20Is and five ODIs, with the A team set to shadow the senior side and play an additional six matches. Pakistan Women's last international fixture was in Zimbabwe, where they won the first ODI before the remainder of the series was cancelled when Emirates Airlines, the Pakistan team's carrier, announced it would suspend its operations in the Harare-Dubai route eight days before their scheduled departure.
Before that, Pakistan Women had toured South Africa, where they lost the ODI series 3-0, and won the third and final T20I to deny the hosts another series sweep. Since the aborted Zimbabwe tour, Pakistan Women haven't played any international cricket, but a group of 26 players underwent a skills and fitness camp in Multan and Karachi.
"The last year has been an extremely challenging one owing to the Covid-19 pandemic," Mumtaz said. "Despite that, the PCB continued to significantly invest in the women's game and organised international and domestic cricket for the women cricketers, with the tours of South Africa and Zimbabwe and a domestic T20 competition. The board also invested in three high-performance camps over the 2020-21 season, which also included one camp for 27 emerging players.
"Though the sample size of the on-field performances is small due to the limited number of matches, we, while awarding the contracts, have also incorporated the feedback from the national coaching staff in regard to fitness and skill levels displayed at the high-performance camps."
The annual contact will run from July 1, 2021 to June 30, 2022, but the PCB said it would review performances after six months to rejig the contracts. "To negate the element of complacency, the national selectors will hold a review after six months, and, if needed, the committee might revisit the categories," Mumtaz said. "However, we are hopeful that these players, who are currently on the historic tour of West Indies, will continue to raise the standard of competitive cricket as we aim to become strong contenders at the international level."
Category A: Bismah Maroof and Javeria Khan
Category B: Aliya Riaz, Diana Baig, Nida Dar (promoted from C)
Category C: Anam Amin, Fatima Sana (promoted from Emerging), Kainat Imtiaz (promoted from emerging), Nahida Khan, Nashra Sandhu (new contract), Umaima Sohail, Sidra Nawaz (demoted from B)
Emerging category: Ayesha Naseem, Kaynat Hafeez, Muneeba Ali Siddiqui, Najiha Alvi, Rameen Shamim, Saba Nazir, Sadia Iqbal and Syeda Aroob Shah

Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent