Pace bowlers Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz and Hasan Ali were dropped from the list of Pakistan Cricket Board's centrally contracted players on Wednesday as young fast bowler Naseem Shah was awarded a maiden category C contract.
Former captain Sarfaraz Ahmed was demoted to category B and lost his ODI captaincy to Babar Azam, who also leads Pakistan in Twenty20 internationals. Pakistan Test captain captain Azhar Ali and fast bowler Shaheen Afridi were promoted to category A, earning 1.1 million rupees ($6,200), along with Babar.
"The selectors have made the tough decisions to leave out Amir, Hasan and Wahab but considering Hasan missed most of the season due to an injury and Amir and Wahab decided to focus on white-ball cricket, this was the right move," chief selector and head coach Misbah-ul-Haq said in a statement.
Misbah openly criticised Amir for quitting Test cricket last year. Wahab also decided to focus on shorter formats. Both players were demoted to category C in last year's list of centrally contracted players before eventually being left out this year for the contracts which run from July 1, 2020 to June 31, 2021.
Misbah said that both Amir and Wahab will remain in contention for ODIs and Twenty20s and that the experienced bowlers "can still contribute to the Pakistan men's cricket team and also mentor our young battery of fast bowlers."
Hasan made his Test debut three years ago but had been struggling due to injuries since last playing for Pakistan in June 2019. He made an unimpressive comeback in February for Peshawar Zalmi in the Pakistan Super League Twenty20 tournament, taking only eight wickets in nine matches at an expensive economy rate of 8.59.
Naseem, 17, hit the headlines when he became the youngest fast bowler in Test history to take a hat-trick when he accomplished the feat against Bangladesh at Rawalpindi.
"I am delighted for Naseem and Shaheen who have been well-rewarded for their outstanding performances," Misbah said. "The two teenagers are the future of Pakistan cricket and I have no doubts that if they remain fit and stay focused, they will dominate world cricket for a long time."
Pakistan Test leg-spinner Yasir Shah was demoted from category A to B while left-handed opening batsman Imam-ul-Haq was demoted from B to C category.
Category B will be worth 750,000 rupees ($4,700) and the list included Sarfaraz, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Abbas and Shadab Khan. Opening batsmen Abid Ali and Shan Masood along with wicketkeeper-batsman Rizwan Ahmed were promoted from category C to B.
The category C players will earn 550,000 rupees ($3,400).
"The philosophy and criteria for this merit-based central contract list was 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," Misbah said.
Three young cricketers — under-19 batsman Haider Ali, and fast bowlers Haris Rauf and Mohammad Hasnain — were named in the list of emerging players which was described by Misbah as part of PCB's policy to "encourage potential future national team players."
"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.
Provided there's no postponement of tours due to the coronavirus pandemic, Pakistan is scheduled to play nine Test matches between July 2020 and April 2021, against England, New Zealand, South Africa and Zimbabwe. It is also scheduled to play six ODIs and 20 Twenty20s. In addition, Pakistan will also feature in the Asia Cup T20 tournament and the ICC T20 Men's World Cup 2020 in Australia.
Category A: Azhar Ali, Babar Azam, Shaheen Afridi
Category B: Abid Ali, Asad Shafiq, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Abbas, Mohammad Rizwan, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Shadab Khan, Shan Masood, Yasir Shah
Category C: Fakhar Zaman, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Imam-ul-Haq, Naseem Shah, Usman Shinwari
Emerging Players' Category: Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Mohammad Hasnain
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