After reverting to the graded payments system for the player contracts, the BCCI awarded 17 cricketers the contracts on Saturday for the period October 1, 2006, to September 30 this year.
At first glance, it reads like this. VVS Laxman, and Harbhajan Singh have been demoted from Grade A to B; Zaheer Khan, Wasim Jaffer and Munaf Patel are all still in Grade C, Suresh Raina and Irfan Pathan retain their contracts, while Mohammad Kaif does not.
The contracts have been awarded with retrospective effect, with just over three months remaining till they end, and what's more interesting is that the BCCI, in its trademark style, has taken some peculiar decisions. Read on.
While 18 players were contracted to the Board till September 30, 2006, the Board has reduced this to 17 this time around. While Kaif and Murali Kartik have been excluded, Munaf is the only newcomer to be given a contract for the first time.
Zaheer, after his comeback into the side, has emerged as the pace spearhead of the team. Yet he hasn't been promoted from Grade C, so this seemed somewhat strange. However, the three-member committee of Board president Sharad Pawar, secretary Niranjan Shah and chairman of selection panel, Dilip Vengsarkar, had an explanation for this.
In a release, Shah said that the "gradation is based on the performance of the players in the previous season", (October 1, 2005 to September 30, 2006). Fine, that explains perhaps why Raina (27 ODIs in the performance period, 516 runs at 34.4) is still on contract but by that logic, Kaif (23 ODIs, 378 runs at 23.63 and six Tests, 330 runs at 47.14) should have at least retained a contract, even if demoted to Grade C.
And, straight off, by that same criteria, Sourav Ganguly shouldn't have got a Grade A contract (or even a contract perhaps) as he was out of the Indian team for much of that contract period - playing just four Tests in that duration (four Tests, 155 runs at an average of 31).
So what was the logic? Or, was it not?
As the BCCI finally gave the players their contracts nine months too late, the least they could have done was make decisions keeping in mind the fact that so many months have gone by and some decisions seem bizarre.
Again, take the case of Jaffer, who hasn't been promoted from Grade C. In the performance period, Jaffer played seven Tests at a high average of 47.84, second only to Dravid. If the logic for keeping him in Grade C was that he played only Tests, so did Laxman and Ganguly (in that period).
Shah, however, was reluctant to answer. While he first told the Hindustan Times to call later as he was "busy in a meeting," he could not be reached till late on Saturday despite repeated attempts.