PCB Central Contracts: When seniority takes precedence over skill
If Shahid Afridi deserves a Category A contract, why was he not included in the team for the Champions Trophy?
Welcome to the peculiar world of Pakistan cricket; a world where players like Shahid Afridi and Younis Khan are rewarded Category A contracts, shortly after being snubbed from the team announced for the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy tournament.
Another “dropout” Umar Akmal nabbed a Category B contract.
Can anyone check with the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) about their criteria of bestowing these contracts?
For those who do not know, here is a brief summary of the three categories as reported by The Express Tribune:
The increases gives “A” category players a monthly salary of 359,375 rupees ($3,600) and a Test match fee of 440,000 rupees ($4,400).
“B” category players will get a monthly salary of 251,562 rupees and players in the “C” category, 143,750 rupees.
Let’s take the example of Afridi:
Personally, I have been an ardent supporter and fan of Shahid Afridi over the years; not because of his exploits, but due to his charismatic persona.
However, his recent bowling and batting form in last 12 months, in ODIs (12 matches, 4 wickets @ 113.75 apiece and 161 runs @ 17.88 per innings) has deteriorated significantly.
Consequently, Afridi was snubbed from the Champions Trophy, and rightly so.
Amazingly, he still retained his central contract with the PCB in the top category and will be paid higher than many other player on the team!
A catch-22 situation for the PCB?
Now, here is a catch-22 situation for the PCB: If Shahid Afridi deserves a category A contract, why was he not included in the team for the Champions Trophy?
If he is not in the team due to his consistent poor performances, then why he is awarded such a contract?
One can argue that the PCB is investing in both Afridi and Younis, due to their credentials in T20 and Test cricket, respectively. But in this case, they can be paid on per match basis, right? In my opinion, a central contract should be granted to those players who qualify to play in more than one format and/or travel with the team in most part of its cricketing schedule.
This is certainly not the case with both Afridi and Younis; they are not getting any younger either. A central contact makes sense for a young player like Umar Akmal - the PCB can still invest time and money despite his failures in him.
What is beyond me is why they are adamant on keeping senior and under-performing players happy.
Are contracts based on performance?
Let’s closely look at these contracts, now.
How do Faisal Iqbal and Imran Farhat qualify to get a central contract after a zillion failures, and why are several consistent performers in domestic cricket, such as Usman Salahuddin, Sadaf Hussain, Fawad Alam and a few more overlooked?
Why is a bright and young player like Hammad Azam not being given a chance despite his reasonable international performances, especially when Pakistan cricket desperately needs an all-rounder after Afridi and Abdul Razzaq?
Moreover, where is the impressive left-arm spin bowler, Raza Hassan who showed a more than decent performance in his brief international career?
Similarly, I can point out at least 15 players who have better statistics in domestic cricket than those who have been favoured for these contracts.
A bigger dilemma/Players are underpaid
The PCB should realise a larger issue that can lead to a complete debacle of cricket in Pakistan; most of our domestic players are grossly underpaid. They do not have any exposure to international cricket. As a result, they are never invited to play lucrative cricket leagues around the globe.
For the sake of longevity of our phenomenal cricketing traditions, the PCB must institutionalise the game whereby players are not kept waiting to earn their livelihood. At the moment, only 30 players are getting some sort of remuneration from the boardthrough these contracts. The PCB should increase this number to at least 50, if not more. In the recent central contract, the salaries have been bumped by 15%, which is, indeed, a positive move. Please note that Pakistani players get one of the lowest salaries in world cricket. They are not invited to IPL, whereas, the PCB is always on a collision course with most of the leagues around the world for some reason or the other. Mostly, they have to rely on their salaries from the PCB or match fees in order to earn a living.
For a comparison, Shoaib Akhtar revealed in his recent interview that the total amount he has earned in his entire career is still less than that of an average IPL player.
The PCB exists only because of these players , not the other way around. According to a report from 2011, many officials in PCB earn staggering salaries, far higher than the earnings of our top players. Additionally, they enjoy numerous perks and privileges from the exchequer of PCB. Sadly, when they are asked to improve the condition of players, they always moan about the budget constraints and speak of a financial crunch.
It is high time the PCB remunerates well those who are its best asset - the great players who truly deserve to be well paid.