The Indian cricket board unveiled a new central contract system on Wednesday and gave the clearest possible signal of the value it accords to limited overs and Test cricket specialists, with white-ball stars placed in the highest grade.
In the new system, limited overs regulars Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan find themselves in the A+ category, which is worth rupees 70 million ($1m), along with Virat Kohli and fast bowlers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah.
The overall value of central contracts has risen substantially. Earlier, the highest grade (A) was worth rupees 20 million ($300,000) but now the second highest grade (A) alone carries a retainer of rupees 50 million ($770,000).
Most of India’s Test specialists now find themselves in the new A category. It includes Test spinners Ravi Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja and batsmen Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Murali Vijay.
For Ashwin, Jadeja, Pujara and Vijay, their contract value has more than doubled from 20 to 50 million rupees. But as a share of the contract pie, they find themselves way behind Rohit and Dhawan, whose contract value has jumped from rupees 10 and five million respectively to 70 million rupees.
In simple terms, top Test specialists in India will now earn less than the best limited overs players. It’s a clear departure from the earlier thought-process of rewarding Test players with substantial central contracts to close the gap with players who play limited overs cricket and get big IPL contracts.
Also, wicketkeeper batsman MS Dhoni finds himself in the second highest A Grade, reflecting his reduced influence in the Indian team after Test retirement.
Earlier, the BCCI handed out Grade A, B and C category contracts which carried a retainer of rupees 20, 10 and five million respectively.
INDIA’S NEW CENTRAL CONTRACTS:
Grade A + (Rupees 70 million, $1million)
Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Jasprit Bumrah, Bhuvneshwar Kumar
Grade A (Rupees 50 million, $770,000)
Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Cheteshwar Pujara, Murali Vijay, Ajinkya Rahane, MS Dhoni, Wriddhiman Saha.
Grade B (Rupees 30 million, $460,000)
KL Rahul, Umesh Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma, Dinesh Karthik.
Grade C (Rupees 10 million, $150,000)
Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey, Axar Patel, Karun Nair, Suresh Raina, Parthiv Patel, Jayant Yadav
The BCCI announced a new system of central contracts of the Indian men’s and women’s teams.
Reports suggest Shami’s name has been withheld from the list due to the allegations of extra-marital affairs and domestic abuse by his wife Hasin Jahan.
The Indian pacer’s wife leaked unverified details about alleged conversations between Shami and various women on social media.
Hasin has filed a police complaint against Shami and his family with Kolkata Police.
Shami put out a statement denying any wrongdoing.
“Hi, I am Mohammed Shami. All recent stories about my personal life doing the rounds are absolutely false. This is a conspiracy to defame me and ruin my playing career,” Shami’s post, in Hindi, read.
The 27-year-old pacer was a part of India’s pace attack in the recently concluded three-match Test series against South Africa where he picked up 15 wickets, including a five-wicket haul in the visitors’ victory in the final Test at Johannesburg.
But while India’s selectors have given Kohli a break, commenters on the game haven’t.
The latest salvo came from former Australia captain Steve Waugh, who, speaking at last week’s Laureus Awards, said the India skipper’s aggression during the tour of South Africa was “a little over the top” and that Kohli needs to “rope in his excitement and emotions.”
The comments followed ex-South Africa captain Graeme Smith saying Kohli may not be India’s best long-term leadership option, after the second Test of the series, which India lost 2-1 before winning the ODI and T20 legs.
That Test saw Kohli visibly displeased with teammates over misfields, bowling errors, and batting dismissals. Trailing the series 1-0, India needed at least a draw to keep the series alive, and as the match slipped away, Kohli struggled to contain his frustration.
He was also criticised for his prickly media interactions, responding abrasively to any criticism.
But the team’s turnaround over the rest of the tour made it clear: Kohli’s leadership is as crucial to India’s success as his sublime batting.
It is definitely disheartening to see Kohli berating fielders, or getting angry when other batsmen get out. It’s also part of his job – he’s not the first captain to bark at a teammate, and he won’t be the last.
A bigger concern was the way Kohli essentially forced out Anil Kumble as India coach last year, because he didn’t match the captain’s aggression. Ultimately, this was a professional disagreement, and the two are seemingly on amicable terms – Kumble attended Kohli’s wedding reception, if that means anything – but it left a bad taste.
These are areas Kohli needs to improve. Smith is right in saying that while Kohli’s intensity is good for him, it might grate on teammates. His obsession with a narrow definition of aggression may have cost India a man like Kumble, as well as the South Africa series, as decisions not to play Ajinkya Rahane in the first two Tests and drop Bhuvaneshwar Kumar for the second Test made little sense.
But it should be remembered that Kohli’s captaincy is only three years old. He’s still growing as a leader.
He’s already immeasurably improved India. The team’s ground fielding, already among the best thanks to MS Dhoni, has risen a few notches due to Kohli’s emphasis on fitness.
Significantly, his attitude has empowered India’s rising stars. Hardik Pandya is the biggest beneficiary, while Yuzvendra Chahal, who also plays under Kohli in the IPL, and fellow wrist-spinner Kuldeep Yadav have thrived. The entire pace attack has benefited from his aggression.
Meanwhile, the noise surrounding Kohli’s sledging is overblown. Of the series in which Kohli has captained, only last year’s series against Australia was ill-tempered – and anyone from Australia complaining about sledging is hypocrisy bordering on the ridiculous.
Waugh was the self-proclaimed champion of “mental disintegration”; another former captain, Michael Clarke, once told England’s James Anderson to “get ready for a f***ing broken arm”.
Australia are notorious for peddling the “hard but fair” line for their own sledging but bristling when anyone crosses an invisible line only they can see. Waugh’s criticism should be taken with a bucketful of salt.
What Kohli is guilty of is smashing the stereotype of the genteel Indian. He follows a generation of cricketers who were unflinchingly polite – players like Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid, VVS Laxman would respond to barbs with smiles and deadly batting.
That has remained the impression of how an Indian cricketer “should” behave, and there is a sense of residual colonial attitude to attacking an Indian who behaves differently.
But these cricketers were led by Sourav Ganguly – another brash leader who got under the opposition’s skin. Kohli saw how Ganguly’s attitude helped the Indian team flourish, while never sidelining the “nice guys”.
All the current captain has done is take that to another level – and take India to No1 in the Test and ODI rankings in the process. The naysayers have it wrong: Kohli is exactly the leader India need.