Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane’s position in group A of the BCCI central contracts could be up for deliberation when the board finalizes its fresh list of contracted players for the upcoming season in a few days’ time.
Another big question is whether the BCCI top brass is in a mood to upgrade two future captaincy contenders — KL Rahul and Rishabh Pant — alongside Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, and Jasprit Bumrah in the elite A+ category.
Cheteshwar Pujara And Ajinkya Rahane Set To Be Demoted From Grade A Alongside Ishant Sharma And Hardik Pandya
The BCCI has four categories — A+, A, B, and C — which carry annual retainer ships of Rs 7 crore, Rs 5 crore, Rs 3 crore, and Rs 1 crore respectively. Normally, it is the three office-bearers, five selectors, and the national head coach, who decide retainer ships. As of now, there won’t be massive changes to the 28 names featured in the last list but there could be some serious discussions about the composition of the current groups which were in place last year.
“Obviously, Rohit, Kohli, and Bumrah being the three indispensable players across formats would be in A plus category beyond doubt. But now Rahul and Pant are slowly establishing themselves as all-format regulars, so it needs to be seen whether the duo gets a promotion or not,” a senior BCCI source said on conditions of anonymity.
But what could be a more debatable issue is Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane’s status after a year of consistent non-performance. Senior Indian batters Ajinkya Rahane and Cheteshwar Pujara are most likely to be demoted in the BCCI central contracts. Their position in India’s Test team has come under intense scrutiny after their inconsistent performances with the bat for an extended period of time.
“The central contract is a performance indicator of where you stand as per your performance during the last season. If the BCCI and head coach (Rahul) Dravid decide to honour the duo and keep them in group A, then it’s a different issue but under normal circumstances, they ideally won’t feature in group A,” the source said.
Ajinkya Rahane in 2021, scored just 479 runs in 23 innings at an extremely poor average of 20.82 including just 2 50+ scores. Ajinkya Rahane, who was recently removed from the Test vice-captaincy, scored just 136 runs in the three-match Test series against South Africa at an average of 22.66.
India’s No.3 in Tests, Cheteshwar Pujara scored 124 runs in the three-match Test series against South Africa at an average of 20.66. Overall in 2021, he scored 702 runs in 26 innings at an average of 28.08 including 6 50+ scores.
The same is for pacer Ishant Sharma and all-rounder Hardik Pandya, who have both struggled due to injuries and lack of form throughout the season and the duo could feature in group B. Similarly, among the group B players of last season, only Shardul Thakur, who has had some impactful performances in Test matches, can be hopeful of promotion to group A.
Mohammed Siraj May Be Promoted From Grade C While Venkatesh Iyer May Make Maiden Cut
In current group C, Mohammed Siraj is one of the pacers who has shown tremendous improvement while Shubman Gill is one for the future along with Hanuma Vihari, who would also be expecting an upgrade. Among newcomers, the likes of all-rounder Venkatesh Iyer and pacer Harshal Patel could make their maiden cut.
According to the reports, Indian opening batsman KL Rahul, who is the stand-in ODI captain for the South Africa series, and wicketkeeper-batsman Rishabh Pant are most likely to receive a promotion in the BCCI central contracts.
Last Season’s (2021) Contract List
Grade A+: Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Jasprit Bumrah
Grade A: Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Shikhar Dhawan, KL Rahul, Mohd. Shami, Ishant Sharma, Rishabh Pant, Hardik Pandya
Grade B: Wriddhiman Saha, Umesh Yadav, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Shardul Thakur, Mayank Agarwal
Grade C: Kuldeep Yadav, Navdeep Saini, Deepak Chahar, Shubman Gill, Hanuma Vihari, Axar Patel, Shreyas Iyer, Washington Sundar, Yuzvendra Chahal, Md. Siraj.
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