Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) on Wednesday named 35 players who have been awarded central contracts for the year 2017-2018, and middle-order batsman Umar Akmal was one glaring miss from the list.
Umar, 27, was sent back from England last month after he failed two fitness tests even after being named in the 16-man squad for the 2017 Champions Trophy; he was subsequently replaced by Haris Sohail.
He later owned up to his mistake and vowed to come back stronger than ever in an interview with The Express Tribune.
“The board had made its guidelines about fitness very clear and every player knows that he has to follow them," Umar had said. "But if he fails then he has to live with the consequences. I have been working hard and there has been an improvement in my fitness and I am trying all I can to come back into the national team."
The PCB, in its media release, mentioned a trio of reasons for those missing out, with Umar’s exclusion probably falling under the 'fitness' tab. “The central contracts were awarded after keeping in mind the performances, fitness, and discipline of the players,” read the media release.
Promotions and demotions
The new central contracts saw left-arm pacer and Pakistan’s star bowler in the Champions Trophy final against India Mohammad Amir being promoted from category B to A.
Sarfraz Ahmed, Pakistan’s captain across all three formats, right-hand batsman Azhar Ali, veteran all-rounders Shoaib Malik and Mohammad Hafeez and ace leg-spinner Yasir Shah all retained their positions in the category A.
Right-hand batsman Babar Azam, touted to be Pakistan’s Virat Kohli by head coach Mickey Arthur, was promoted from category C to B. All-rounder Imad Wasim and right-arm pacer and Champions Trophy’s highest wicket-taker Hasan Ali also made similar leaps from category C to B.
Asad Shafiq was the only player in category B who retained his position.
Meanwhile, left-arm pacer Wahab Riaz, who received much criticism for leaking too many runs in the Champions Trophy opener against India, was demoted to category C from his previous position in category B.
Sarfraz’s replacement wicketkeeper-batsman Mohammad Rizwan and all-rounder Mohammad Nawaz were both demoted from category C to D.
Re-entrants and first-timers
Left-arm pacer Junaid Khan, who replaced Wahab in the final eleven after he injured his foot during Pakistan's first game in Champions Trophy, was awarded a category C central contract after missing out last year.
Elsewhere, Champions Trophy final’s centurion Fakhar Zaman, young leg-spinner Shadab Khan and right-arm pacer Mohammad Abbas received their first central contracts and were inducted in category C.
The list of first-timers also includes Asif Zakir, Usman Salahuddin, Amir Yamin, Usman Shinwari, Faheem Ashraf, Rumman Raees, Imamul Haq, Bilal Asif, Mir Hamza, Umer Amin and Mohammad Hasan.
According to the PCB’s media release, “as per the three-year understanding reached with players and the management, the monthly retainers for all categories are increased by 10%”.
After the aforementioned changes, category A players will now receive monthly remuneration of Rs650,000, while category B players will earn Rs450,000 per month.
Meanwhile, category C and D players will take home Rs260,000 and Rs179,000 every month, respectively.