The identical puzzle applies to how the PCB decides who is awarded central contracts for the upcoming year, and at which of those five categories they fit. There’s a method that is supposed to look at performance within the past year, and the player’s chances of excelling at the long run, but as the method itself hasn’t been revealed, we all can do is analyse the decisions it throws up.
If these words seem familiar, it’s because there’s a chance you might have read them earlier. This is, verbatim, the introductory paragraph to the past year’s piece discussing the questions the PCB’s list of centrally contracted players for its year end June 2019 raised. But if last season was a head-scratcher, the central contracts for the forthcoming 12 months are bathed in more mystery than Shahid Afridi’s age.
You might wonder if pegging selectors’ contracts to end when they are required to take the most crucial conclusion of the year may be the ideal move. Most of us are.
Why has the list of centrally contracted players been”trimmed” from 33 to 19 players?
The PCB’s press release announced they were”trimming” the list of centrally contracted players, which might make you wonder whether they had dropped two or one. But cutting on the listing to half its size annually is as much a trimming as the barber giving you a bald patch down the center of your skull.
There were casualties everywhere. The fifth category – Category E – a PCB press release had announced, was introduced to”recognise performers on the domestic circuit and to encourage the continuing development of emerging cricketers from the junior cricket level”.
It ends up lofty ambition was a 12-month job, or another example of a change of regime spelling a shift in approach. Let alone national or junior cricketers, even some older ones may count themselves blessed to have created the 19 at all. Because it isn’t just Category E that’s been killed off; Category D has fallen by the wayside as well, with Faheem Ashraf, Asif Ali, Hussain Talat, and the outgoing Shoaib Malik and Mohamad Hafeez falling out altogether.
Mind you, the PCB have stated formerly a selection committee is set up, additions to this pool of 19 can be made. This, then, may just be a first draft.
Why are there just three players in Category A, and why is Yasir Shah one of them?
All right, we receive it. Pakistan are not playing too much cricket at the upcoming year. There are six Tests, nine T20I and just three ODIs. But pegging a fundamental contract to the amount of cricket players have scheduled – emphatically not in their hands – appears a slightly dubious method of deciding the size of their professionally contracted record. Category A currently just comprises three players: Sarfaraz Ahmed, Yasir Shah and Babar Azam.
Sarfaraz’s inclusion may well be predicated on his position as captain in all three formats, though how long that remains the situation is extremely much unknown. Yasir at Category A does raise some eyebrows, however. He can be a Evaluation specialist, and Pakistan have six Tests at the upcoming calendar year. Two of those are contrary to Australia, in which, you could remember last time around, he took eight wickets in three Tests and averaged 84.
It’s not just a one-off; earlier this year in South Africa, he bowled just four overs in the first Test and sat out the third, taking two wickets at 123. His record in the southern hemisphere reads nine wickets at over 95, so he might not be nailed on for the Brisbane and Adelaide Tests. Category A for at best four Test matches – particularly when he’s only one of three players in it – does seem somewhat generous.
Tests are the priority. So why are Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq in Category B?
The PCB, ESPNcricinfo understands, put Test cricket front and centre of these new contracts. That makes sense, since 30 of the 42 days the players are due to play international cricket will be with the red ball. It explains, if very loosely, why Yasir Shah sits in the top bracket. But then, why does Asad Shafiq, who has played every one of Pakistan’s last 64 Test matches, not make the top category too? Or Azhar Ali, tipped as potentially the next Test captain – and a Test-match specialist for the past three years – sit in Category B? That, mind you, is the same category as Wahab Riaz, who hasn’t played Test cricket in nearly a year, T20Is for over two years, and only just returned to ODI cricket at the World Cup.
Is Mohammad Amir being punished for retiring from Test cricket?
The PCB would point to the fact Amir’s demotion to Category C is a reflection of the priority they hold Test cricket in. But Amir was the leading wickettaker for Pakistan at the World Cup with 17, and, according to the outgoing coach Mickey Arthur, would be a fresher, more dangerous limited-overs bowler now he had shed his red-ball workload. Besides, Pakistan do play nine T20Is in the upcoming year, which isn’t exactly a tiny number. Placing him in the same category as Abid Ali and Mohammad Rizwan – who have one Test match between them – does make you wonder if there was more than just analytical algorithms going on in the decision room.