Veterans Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik have been dropped from the list of Pakistan Cricket Board’s (PCB) centrally contracted players for 2019-20.
The annual central contracts’ list was announced on Thursday by the PCB with the number of categories being reduced from five to three. Only 19 players have been contracted centrally by the PCB for the upcoming season compared to the 33 who were handed out contracts last year.
Hafeez and Malik’s omissions were the biggest talking points from the contract list with the two veterans failing to find a place in a single category. Malik had recently announced his retirement from ODI cricket following the completion of the 2019 ICC World Cup.
Malik had been handed a category A contract by the PCB for the 2018-19 season. Meanwhile, Hafeez had previously held a category B contract with the PCB. The 38-year-old all-rounder is yet to take a call on his international future.
Only three players – Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed and Yasir Shah – have been handed category A contracts this time around. Apart from the exclusions of Hafeez and Malik, there were demotions for pacer Mohammad Amir and opening batsman Fakhar Zaman.
Amir, who recently announced his retirement from Test cricket, has been demoted from category A to B alongside Test specialist Azhar Ali. Fakhar, on the other hand, has dropped down from category B to C in the latest list.
Teenage pacer Shaheen Afridi has made a big jump with the southpaw being promoted to category B after being placed in category E last year. Others to have earned promotions in the latest contract list include opener Imam-ul-Haq (C to B), Haris Soahil (C to B), Wahab Riaz (C to B) and Mohammad Abbas (C to B).
While the number of players contracted by the PCB has been reduced for the coming season, the value of the annual contracts has shot up between 25 to 40 per cent.
“We have significantly increased the financial value of the 2019-20 retainers across each category,” PCB managing director Wasim Khan said in a statement.
“This is over and above what had been agreed in the current agreement, which is due to run until 2021.
“The PCB have set high standards and targets in its strategic plan for the upcoming season. We want to attach a high value to receiving a central contract. We have complete faith and confidence that these players will set up and produce on-field performances that will help us collectively achieve our objectives and targets.”
The latest contracts are valid from July 1, 2019 to June 30, 2020.
PCB ANNUAL CENTRAL CONTRACTS’ LIST 2019-20
Category A: Babar Azam, Sarfraz Ahmed and Yasir Shah.
Category B: Imam-ul-Haq, Shadab Khan, Azhar Ali, Haris Sohail, Mohammad Abbas, Asad Shafiq, Shaheen Afridi and Wahab Riaz.
Category C: Abid Ali, Hasan Ali, Fakhar Zaman, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Amir, Mohammad Rizwan, Shan Masood and Usman Shinwari.
While Windies finished second from bottom after registering the mere two wins in England, India had to suffer heartbreak in the semi-final against New Zealand after a near perfect round-robin phase campaign.
It will now be a time to rebuild for both teams as they start their next four-year ODI cycle for the 2023 World Cup in the subcontinent. As the two sides prepare to go head-to-head, we look at three key battles that could decide the fate of the ODI series.
Pooran v Chahal
One of the rare positives for Windies from their disappointing World Cup campaign was the form of Nicholas Pooran with the bat. The 23-year-old wicketkeeper batsman showed his class and has averaged nearly 48 with the bat in ODI cricket so far while maintaining a strike-rate of almost 100.
With an ability to effortlessly clear the boundary ropes, Pooran will be a big threat to India’s bowlers in the three ODIs and he has already shown glimpses of that potential in the preceding T20I series.
Pooran’s battle against India’s wrist-spinners will be a fascinating one to watch with the left-hander most likely to go on the offensive at every given opportunity. One man who relishes bowling to attacking batsmen is Yuzvendra Chahal but the senior India wrist-spinner will need to up his game after looking ordinary for the most part in England.
Holder v Kohli
One of the more fascinating battles will be the individual tussle between the two skippers who love leading their respective sides from the front. All-rounder Jason Holder has been the talisman for Windies on several occasions in the past and is a fighter at the crease with both bat and ball.
It is with the ball that Holder will look to do most of the damage and the Windies skipper will be eyeing the grand scalp of Virat Kohli above all. While Kohli failed to register a single ton in the World Cup, he still churned out the runs at an impressive rate before his failure in the semi-final.
The India skipper looked back to his very best in the final T20 against West Indies at the same venue on Tuesday and he will be looking to carry over that form into the ODI series.
Kohli, however, will need to be wary of the threat posed by Holder who has dismissed him on four occasions in the past which also includes the 2019 World Cup showdown between India and West Indies.
Gayle v Shami
Returning to the international cricket for perhaps one last bang is Chris Gayle with the veteran opener having been granted his wish to feature in the ODI series against India.
The 39-year-old southpaw did not have the best of World Cups where he averaged just 30 with the bat and he will want to put on a much better show in a series which could potentially be his international swansong.
Gayle and is now just two caps away from 300 ODI appearances for West Indies and he comes into the series on the back of some explosive displays in the Caribbean Premier League.
The Jamaican, however, will have to contend with the pace threat of Mohammed Shami with the new ball. Gayle’s innings in the World Cup against India was cut short by the same man and the pacer will be desperate to get back into the thick of things after being rested for the T20 series.
Shami was excellent for India in the World Cup with 14 wickets in just four matches at an average of just over 13 and he will be expected to lead the pace attack in the Caribbean for the visitors in the absence of Jasprit Bumrah.
It will be the first 50-over outing for the two sides since the completion of the 2019 ICC World Cup in England and they will both want to get back to winning ways in the format at Providence.
It will be the visitors who will be undeniably start the three-match ODI series as favourites but the hosts have plenty of firepower.
Gayle’s return boosts hosts
There was hardly anything for the hosts to shout about in the T20I series with the Men in Blue emerging as comprehensive victors. However, the return of veteran opener Chris Gayle to the fold will bolster the hopes of Jason Holder and his men in the three upcoming ODI clashes.
The Jamaican was set to hang up his international boots post the completion of the World Cup but a late change of heart means he will walk out to bat in front of his home fans once again in a Windies shirt.
Gayle did not have the best of times in the World Cup but the southpaw will take confidence from his last ODI series showing in the Caribbean. He was in sensational form when world champions England came calling to the West Indies in February this year and struck two tons and as many half-centuries in four innings against Eoin Morgan and his men.
That form will be what Gayle will hope to bring to the table for the hosts who are desperate for some form of inspiration from somewhere.
India look to put behind World Cup disappointment
It will be a chance for Virat Kohli and his men to make amends for their failed World Cup campaign where they came unstuck against New Zealand in the semi-final. It had been a near perfect campaign for the Men in Blue otherwise in England but the disappointment of that shock exit will still linger on for some time to come.
Two players who had disappointing World Cup campaigns in England after much was expected of them were wrist-spinners Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav. The duo has been India’s go to spinners in the limited-overs formats over the past two years but they will need to affirm their credentials once again with youngsters such as Rahul Chahar and Washington Sundar waiting in the wings.
Kuldeep and Chahal were not picked in the recent T20 series and they have their work cut out for them in the upcoming ODI series if they want to be on the plane for the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia.
Will Shreyas Iyer get a chance?
India ringed in the changes for the recent T20I series with all members of the squad bar one getting a workout across the three matches. The only player to not get a single outing in the whole series was young Shreyas Iyer.
The 24-year-old has a healthy batting average of 42 in six ODI appearances for India previously but has not been given an extended run in the squad despite the woes in the middle-order. With Shikhar Dhawan returning to the ODI fold after his injury, KL Rahul could once again drop down the order to No4 while Rishabh Pant could be deployed a floater batsman.
That leaves one spot in the middle-order up from grabs and it will be a straight shootout between Iyer and Manish Pandey for it. Pandey was the preferred option in the middle-order for Kohli in the T20 series but the 29-year-old failed to really make an impact with 27 runs in three innings.
West Indies: Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Shai Hope (wk), Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer, Carlos Brathwaite, Jason Holder (c), Keemo Paul, Roston Chase, Sheldon Cottrell, Oshane Thomas.
India: Shikhar Dhawan, Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli (c), KL Rahul, Shreyas Iyer, Rishabh Pant (wk), Kedar Jadhav, Ravindra Jadeja, Mohammed Shami, Navdeep Saini, Yuzvendra Chahal/Kuldeep Yadav.