Babar, Rizwan and Afridi get top deals in PCB’s 2022-23 central contracts

F.P. Report

LAHORE: Faheem Ashraf and Mohammad Hasnain, who is back after serving a suspension for a faulty bowling action, have been left out of the list of Pakistan’s centrally contracted players, while Shan Masood, Naseem Shah and Haider Ali are all back in the mix after missing out last year.

In the list announced on Thursday, the trio of Babar Azam, Mohammad Rizwan and Shaheen Shah Afridi have been placed in the highest category for both white- and red-ball cricket.

In other major updates, Hasan Ali, who has had a poor year in the shorter formats, has been demoted to Category C in white-ball cricket but has earned a Category B deal for Test cricket. Imam-ul-Haq had an overall [white and red ball] Category C contract last year, but has moved to Category B in white-ball cricket while remaining in Category C for the red-ball format. Azhar Ali was in Category B last year, but has moved into Category A for red-ball cricket alone. Shadab Khan and Fakhar Zaman have also earned Category A contracts for white-ball cricket.

The PCB restructured its player contracts this year, splitting the players into two pools – for white- and red-ball cricket. Along with the overhaul, PCB has also increased the number of contacts from 20 to 33, including placing seven players in the emerging category: Salman Ali Agha, Haseebullah, Mohammad Huraira, Ali Usman, Kamran Ghulam, Qasim Akram and Mohammad Haris.

In another update, the PCB has also hiked the match fee across all formats by 10% for playing members. Non-playing members’ fees have also been increased; they used to earlier get 50% of what the playing members earned as match fees, but will now get 70%. Babar, Pakistan’s all-format captain, will also get a special allowance as a part of a renewed agreement to “compensate the team captain for additional responsibility”.

“I want to congratulate all those who have earned central contracts for the 2022-23 season, especially our younger players… for the first time as part of our vision and strategy to identify, groom, and develop specialists for the traditional and purest format of the game,” chief selector Mohammad Wasim said in a press interaction in Rawalpindi. “I understand there will be a few disappointed players who have missed out on contracts, but I want to reiterate that we are not limiting and restricting ourselves to these 33 players. As and when required, players from outside the list will be included.

“We have also expanded our category of emerging cricketers from three to seven as it is very important for us to groom those cricketers who have the potential to make it to the top level and give an incentive to those players who have excelled in our domestic tournaments.”

Ashraf had a Category B contact in the last cycle, but struggled to make it into the playing XI in ODIs and T20Is. He has, however, been on the fringes of the Test team since he offers balance in the XI with his multiple skills. But in the past 12 months, he played five Tests, getting eight wickets and scoring 141 runs, not enough to be a top pick in the side. In the same period, he played just three ODIs, with no wickets and just 16 runs, and was not considered for T20Is at all.

In Hasnain’s case, though he has been in and around Pakistan’s white-ball teams, the suspension for the illegal action might have worked against him even though he can now bowl internationally again.