NEW DELHI: With the Indian team on the cusp of a transition, the Indian cricket board (BCCI) is likely to make major changes in the central contracts of players. TOI understands that under-fire Test specialists Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara are all set to be demoted to Grade B from the Grade A category.
The draft of central contracts for the period Oct 2021-Sept 2021 has been ready for some months now. The formal announcement is likely to be made soon.
According to the draft, Ishant Sharma is also likely to be downgraded to Grade B.
The annual retainership contracts are given on the basis of the performance of the preceding year. Mohammed Siraj is expected to get a promotion from Grade C to either Grade B or A. Axar Patel too may expect to be elevated from Grade C to B. Umesh Yadav is likely to fall to Grade C. Shardul Thakur is also likely to stay in Grade B. The contracts are divided into four categories: A+, A, B and C worth Rs 7 cr, 5 cr, 3 cr and 1 cr.
There are not going to be many additions in the Grade A+ and A. Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah are set to be retained as A+ cricketers while KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant will remain in Grade A. Mohammed Shami, Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja will also remain in Grade A.
“The draft was made after the T20 World Cup. A final call will be taken soon. Indian cricket has to move forward and performances of new players can’t be ignored,” a BCCI source said.
Pujara and Rahane’s demotion could signal the selectors’ waning faith in these two veteran Test stars. Barring a century in the Boxing Day Test at MCG in Dec 2020, Rahane has struggled to contribute to the team’s cause. Pujara too has not looked the part after a couple of gritty knocks Down Under last year.
“As senior players, they are expected to score more in difficult situations. Ashwin is a tricky case because he has made a comeback in the white-ball format. But that has happened after the period under review. He was not played on the entire England tour but his performances in every game he has played has been outstanding,” the source added.
ALL EYES ON RAHUL, PANT, GILL
As of now, Indian cricket is keen on investing in the likes of Rahul, Pant, Siraj and Shubman Gill. They are seen as the core of the team going forward. Rahul and Pant were considered for elevation to Grade A+ for their performances in England and Australia. They are the only players other than Kohli, Bumrah and Rohit who are certainties in all three formats.
But Rahul cemented his place in the Test XI only during the England tour. With Pant, it is being said that the maverick wicketkeeper-batter needs to bring in consistency to his game. “Pant is seen as a future leader. By the looks of things, it may take a little more time for him to mature as a senior player,” the source said. Gill too could have got a promotion, but injuries pegged him back.
JADEJA NEARS FULL FITNESS, HARDIK ALSO AVAILABLE
As the selectors get down to pick the teams for the T20I and ODI series against West Indies at home, they will be considering Ravindra Jadeja and Hardik Pandya for selection. Jadeja has been under rehabilitation for a knee injury after the home Test series against New Zealand in the first week of December. Hardik was dropped from the team after a mediocre showing in the T20 World Cup where he wasn’t fit enough to bowl at full tilt.
“Jadeja is very close to being absolutely fit. He is definitely in contention to play in the home season when West Indies and Sri Lanka come to India,” a source said.
Hardik has also expressed his willingness to be available for selection after he spent three months on becoming fit enough to bowl at full tilt. An all-rounder who can bat in the top six is what the team management is looking for.