LAHORE: The Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Wednesday handed more responsibility to prolific batsman and T20 skipper Babar Azam by naming him as the new ODI captain in place of Sarfraz Ahmed while also announcing the central contracts for 18 Pakistan players for the year 2020-2021.
Young fast bowler Naseem Shah and all-rounder Iftikhar Ahmed featured in that list of 18 players but the marked omissions were three pacers Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and Hasan Ali who were completely left out According to the information gathered, the process to decide the amount of monthly stipends for the players is still in progress. The PCB has said that there might be some increase in the salaries but there is no move under consideration to cut down the amount due to the prevailing situation created by Covid-19.
Sarfraz, who was earlier removed from the Test and T20 format has lost the ODIs captaincy as well. However, contrary to the rumours that he will be left out of the list altogether or may be relegated to C category, he still features in the B category of the central contracts. He previously featured in the ‘A’ category.
Announcing the decisions, head coach and chief selector Misbah-ul-Haq said the PCB was giving the central contracts much before the due date (July 1), to give a clarity to the players and it also reflected how much it cared for the cricketers, despite the Covid-19 tragedy.
Misbah said: “The philosophy and criteria for this merit-based central contract list is simple and straightforward: the selectors reviewed player performances in the past 12 months and then looked ahead to our team requirements in the forthcoming 12 months.
“I am thankful to the PCB chairman for supporting our recommendation to give the contracts to emerging players such as Haider, Haris and Hasnain. This is part of our forward-looking strategy and investing in the future, while also encouraging the future national team players who have tremendous potential. I am sure this will motivate a number of youngsters in the 2020-21 domestic cricket to perform up to the expected level and earn such incentives.”
Misbah said although the one-day matches are nearly almost six months away, the decision to name Babar as captain was taken for the clarity and it was a unanimous decision. “Though it is the authority of PCB chairman to appoint the captain, in the end it is always a unanimous decision,” Misbah said.
“As Babar has been performing well and also bringing improvement since taking over the T20 captaincy, he is the best choice and has enough time to gain the experience, if we keep in mind World Cup 2023,” he said.
“I want to congratulate Azhar Ali (Test) and Babar Azam for getting captaincy extensions. This is absolutely the right decision as they also require certainty and clarity on their future roles. I am sure they will now start looking to the future and start planning so that they can build sides that can perform at the expected levels,” he further said.
About Sarfraz’s future, Misbah said as Rizwan had given improved performances so he came up while the former captain remains the second best choice. He said Sarfraz was given B category because he was the second best option for Pakistan in case Rizwan is not available due to any reason. Moreover, he said considering his past performance and status as former captain, Sarfraz had rightly earned the B category in the contracts.
When reminded that Kamran Akmal was also giving very fine performances which were top class, Misbah said like every cricketer Kamran was also in the radar.
However, when asked why the past performances and his status were not a criteria in case of Mohammad Amir who deserved a place in C category, Misbah said due to limited number of places in the central contracts, the names of pacers Amir, Wahab Riaz were excluded while Hasan Ali was on injujry list.
“We had done a similar practice last year by excluding Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez to accommodate some youngsters, so now we have included Naseem Shah and Iftikhar in place of Amir and Wahab” he argued.
Misbah said Hasan was also not considered because he was suffering from back injury which resurfaced on April 30. He said the PCB was helping Hasan to recover from the injury.
It is learnt that the PCB is in negotiation with doctors in Australia to take their advisory about Hasan’s back injury which could be treated by doing surgery or through rehabilitation. “Overall, it is a lengthy process for Hasan, which may take eight months,” he said.
Misbah negated the impression that both Wahab and Aamir had lost the trust after announcing their retirements from Test cricket.
“Both Aamir and Wahab are part of our T20 and One-day cricket as both have done a good job in the past and they will continue to play their role for the country’s success in future,” replied Misbah. “But no doubt it was a hard decision and I also have a talk with the three (also Hasan) to take them into confidence about it.”
The former skipper congratulated rising pacer Shaheen Shah Afridi for getting the A category and Naseem and Iftikhar for finding their places in the list of 18 players. He said every performing player, either having a place in the central contract or not, had a good chance for selection.
Misbah disclosed that a category called emerging category had also been introduced in which three players are included namely Haris Rauf, Haider Ali and Mohammad Hasnain.
Meanwhile, Babar was the only player who retained the A category while Sarfaraz and Yasir Shah both went down to B and Azhar Ali and Shaheen are promoted from B to A.
In the B category, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Abbas and Shadab Khan retained their places while Imam-ul-Haq was demoted to C category. Abid Ali and Mohammad Rizwan and Shan Masood were promoted from C to B category.
Naseem and Iftikhar are included in C where Fakhar Zaman, Imad Wasim, Imam, Usman Shinwari are also there.
Meanwhile, Director Media PCB Sami-ul-Hasan said that ten players, who had represented the country at international level such as Musa Khan, Khushdil Shah, Fawad Alam and others would get better package in the domestic cricket season in shape of their better match-fee and retainership.
Pakistan are scheduled to play nine Tests, six ODIs and 20 T20Is plus the Asia Cup and ICC T20 World Cup 2020 over the next 12-month period. The break-up is as under: two T20Is in Ireland (July), three Tests and three T20Is in England (July-September), three ODIs and three T20Is in South Africa (October), three ODIs and three T20Is at home against Zimbabwe (November), two tests and three T20Is in New Zealand (December), two Tests and three T20Is at home against South Africa (January 2021) and two Tests and three T20Is in Zimbabwe (April 2021).
PCB women’s central contract list for 2020-21 will be announced in due course.
List of players given central contracts for 2021:
Azhar Ali (Central Punjab), Babar Azam (Central Punjab/Karachi Kings), Shaheen Shah Afridi (Northern/Lahore Qalandars).
Abid Ali (Sindh/Lahore Qalandars), Asad Shafiq (Sindh/Multan Sultans), Haris Sohail (Balochistan), Mohammad Abbas (Southern Punjab), Mohammad Rizwan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Karachi Kings), Sarfraz Ahmed (Sindh/Quetta Gladiators), Shadab Khan (Northern/Islamabad United), Shan Masood (Southern Punjab/Multan Sultans), Yasir Shah (Balochistan/Peshawar Zalmi).
Fakhar Zaman (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Lahore Qalandars), Iftikhar Ahmed (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Karachi Kings), Imad Wasim (Northern/Karachi Kings), Imam-ul-Haq (Balochistan/Peshawar Zalmi), Naseem Shah (Central Punjab/Quetta Gladiators), Usman Shinwari (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Lahore Qalandars)
Emerging Players’ Category:
Haider Ali (Northern/Peshawar Zalmi), Haris Rauf (Northern/Lahore Qalandars), Mohammad Hasnain (Sindh/Quetta Gladiators).
Published in Dawn, May 14th, 2020