Shashank Kishore is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
Puneet Bali, the Punjab Cricket Association (PCA) secretary, has requested Yuvraj Singh to come out of retirement and play for the state again in the upcoming domestic season. Bali is awaiting a response from the former India allrounder.
It is understood Yuvraj has not committed to the PCA, and will need the BCCI permission in case he decides to take up the offer.
Punjab has lost a number of key players to other states in recent years. Among them are Manan Vohra and Barinder Sran, who qualified to play for Chandigarh two seasons ago as locals, while Jiwanjot Singh and Taruwar Kohli moved to Chhattisgarh and Meghalaya respectively. Bali hopes a young team which is trying to rebuild will benefit from Yuvraj's experience and mentoring.
However, coming back from retirement may not be so straightforward. BCCI considers players to have officially retired to provide NOCs for overseas leagues. And Yuvraj has featured in two such tournaments in the past year - the Global T20 Canada and Abu Dhabi T10 League.
Last month, Yuvraj spent time overseeing closed-door training sessions of Shubman Gill, Prabhsimran Singh, Anmolpreet Singh, Aeshdeep Singh, Abhishek Sharma and Harpreet Brar, all of whom are set to feature in IPL 2020, at PCA's upcoming international stadium in Mullanpur, near Chandigarh.
"These boys were all undergoing sessions with our physios and trainers to prepare [for the season]," Bali told ESPNcricinfo. "Yuvraj initiated sessions with these boys while he was in Chandigarh. Over the last couple of seasons, we've lost players to other states, many of our players to Chandigarh, Chhattisgarh and Himachal. So we felt a player of Yuvraj's experience and calibre could lend a lot of value and inspire the youngsters.
"The request I made was for him to consider playing all formats. But if he comes back to and says, he's available only for limited-overs cricket, for some reason, that will be fine too. I'm looking forward to hear from him soon. But as such, he's been working hard with the boys."
In another key development, the PCA is also set to offer state contracts to their players. Bali confirmed the contracts list has been drawn up and will likely come into force from October 1, 2020. The contracts for this season will go upto April 30, 2021.
The men's category will have three grades - A, B and C. Grade A will come with a retainer of INR 8 lakh, B with a retainer of INR 6 lakh, and those in C - mostly for Under-19s and promising age-group talent - will get a retainer of INR 10,000 rupees a month. There will be 10 players in each of the contract grades.
Players for Grades A and B will be considered based on seniority. Those in A should've played for Punjab in the previous Ranji Trophy season. However, exceptions will be made for those who have either represented India, India A or India Under-19 in the same period. "Essentially, we want to reward those who've performed in the Ranji Trophy, so that is first criteria," Bali explained.
The contract fee will be borne by the state association and comes outside the BCCI's purview. The move is significant because at present, domestic cricketers earn a match fee of INR 35,000 per match day (for days' cricket), and share among themselves 10.40% of the BCCI's annual media rights income. An average player who plays all matches across formats in a season stands to roughly earn INR 15-20 lakh. This revenue pales in comparison to the amounts that players can earn from the IPL, with a minimum base price of INR 20 lakhs.
"This will motivate players, especially those who don't have IPL contracts," Punjab captain Mandeep Singh said. "This is a welcome step, it will provide a lot of players financial stability."
The women's contracts too will be divided into three, and will be valued similarly to the men's. However, the number of players offered contracts will vary, with Groups A and B having three members each, while four players will be awarded Group C contracts.
"We had a discussion in November last year, and then February, and then things came to a standstill due to the pandemic, but we've more or less formalised it now," Bali said. "The men's list has been drawn up. We're waiting for our women's squads to be picked before finalising the contracts in that category."