The new central contracts for 2019-2020 have been announced by the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and some of the decisions made by the board have attracted a lot of debate and criticism.
The contracted players are divided into the following categories:
Category-A: Babar Azam, Sarfaraz Ahmed, Yasir Shah
Category-B: Asad Shafiq, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Imam-ul-Haq, Mohammad Abbas, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi and Wahab Riaz
Category-C: Abid Ali, Hasan Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Rizwan, Shan Masood, Usman Shinwari
Questionable Categories for Contracted Players?
There is no denying that Yasir Shah, along with Saeed Ajmal, is one of the most exceptional spinners Pakistan cricket has produced in recent times. His records in Test cricket remain unmatched and he is an automatic selection in the longest format of the game.
However, his inclusion in category A remains debatable since Yasir will only feature in only the longest format as he has failed to impress with the white-ball. For PCB to include him alongside Babar and Sarfaraz, who are playing all three formats makes little sense.
To further drive the point home, if Yasir can make it to category A then why cannot Mohammad Abbas? This context proves that the player selection criteria for each category remains vague.
Before the World Cup, Wahab Riaz was out of the team for almost two years. He had not featured for the national team in any capacity and had Pakistan not been a bowler short for the World Cup, his international career was done and dusted.
Based on his performances in one competition, which weren’t exceptional, the left-arm pacer has not only received another central contact but also improved on his category as well. In 2018, he was included in C category and according to new contracts, he is ranked alongside the likes of Mohammad Abbas, Imam-ul-Haq and Haris Sohail in category B.
With Hasan Ali demoted, the only logical explanation is that Wahab Riaz is likely going to replace him in limited-overs cricket on a more regular basis.
One more thing worth noticing is that Muhammad Amir has been demoted to Category C because he retired from Test cricket. Wahab Riaz didn’t even perform as well as Amir did in the World Cup and has also retired from Test cricket, so it makes little sense for Wahab to be in a superior category than Amir.
Having played only 3 international games, Abid Ali has been included in the list of centrally contracted players. This decision is extremely surprising considering the fact that Junaid Khan, Mohammad Nawaz and Faheem Ashraf have been not been offered a contract.
Unlike Wahab, Abid does not bring any international experience to the table to be able to replace demoted Fakhar Zaman. In addition to that, his performances in First Class and List A cricket are good but not extraordinary.
The Karachi Kings skipper, Imad Wasim has remained an integral part of Pakistan cricket team in the last year or so. He has improved his batting drastically, performing the role of a finisher for Pakistan in recent times.
Imad’s importance in the team has grown so much that he is being tipped to become the next captain of Pakistan’s ODI team, which is why demoting him remains a questionable decision. He has been demoted from B to C category.
Shocking Omissions From the List
Ever since Abdul Razzaq, Pakistan has failed to produce a genuine all-rounder. Faheem Ashraf, who was initially picked up after PSL’s second edition, has been with the national team for over two-years. He was not only suddenly dropped from the World Cup squad in favor of Wahab Riaz but removed from the list of centrally contracted players as well.
This raises a huge question mark over PCB’s planning and player grooming. Although Faheem Ashraf is not an exceptional talent, he remains one of the few options Pakistan has.
Additionally, if Wahab Riaz can get a contract then why not Faheem?
Left-handed fast bowler, Junaid Khan was kicked out from Pakistan’s squad for the World Cup despite performing quite well in England. He was initially picked among the probables for the mega event however, he was later sent back home as Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz were called up for the tournament.
He has been unfairly sidelined, especially from the longest format of the game. He could have been a handy bowling option along with Mohammad Abbas in Test cricket. His omission might not be that shocking, but, he definitely deserved a chance to prove himself yet again.
There is no doubt that Pakistan cricket needs to move forward and they need to bring in new faces and test them while maintaining their standards. However, cricket is a sport where you require a perfect blend of youth and experience to succeed.
Hafeez might not promise splendid performances throughout the tournaments and series anymore but what he does bring to the table is an abundance of experience and vital performances at the right time. If we recall, he was one of the most important players in Pakistan’s winning campaign of ICC Champions Trophy 2017.
PCB would have been right to demote him but to snub him completely? That’s a rather strange decision.
Other players who missed out on a central contract include:
- Shoaib Malik
- Mohammad Nawaz
- Rumman Raees
- Asif Ali
- Rahat Ali
- Usman Salahuddin
- Hussain Talat
- Bilal Asif
- Saad Ali
- Sahibzada Farhan
- Umaid Asif
- Mir Hamza
Has PCB made the right decisions? Let us know in comments section below.