On Sunday (March 26), the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) announced the retainer contracts for the Indian Men's players for the period between October 2022 to September 2023, grading the players into four categories. While A+ Grade players will take home a sum of 7 Crore each, the Grade C players will earn 1 Cr for their services.
While there were not many surprises in the two extreme categories, Grade A (5 Cr) and Grade B (3 Cr) threw in some major news to munch on.
End of road for Rahane?
When Ajinkya Rahane was ousted from the Indian Test side in early 2022, it was apparent that the former Indian vice-captain would have to do more than the bare minimum in domestic cricket to earn his place back in the side. Unfortunately for the Mumbaikar, his glory days seemed to be in the past.
In the last season of the Ranji Trophy, Rahane amassed 634 runs in 11 innings at an average of 57.63 but put that against what the likes of Mayank Agarwal, Arpit Vasavada and Anustup Majumdar achieved this season, you don’t see a lot of positives for Rahane to hang in to.
With the injury to Shreyas Iyer apparently ruling him out of the World Test Championship Final at The Oval from June 7-11, there could be a distinct possibility of India falling back on him but after the recent announcement, that chance also went up in smoke.
1D Bhuvi takes the fall
For Bhuvneshwar Kumar, it was always coming. Even though India relied on the might of his swing bowling in conditions that aided it, especially in the T20s, his dwindling ability to take wickets beyond powerplay overs worked against him.
In 2022, Bhuvneshwar had a powerplay bowling average of 24.2 at an exceptional economy rate of 5.8, but in the middle overs, he conceded 52 runs per dismissal at 8.7 ER while giving away just a tad under 10 runs per over in the death overs. That made him very one-dimensional in his approach. In the ICC T20 World Cup last year, India didn’t have the services of Jasprit Bumrah, hence a lot of responsibility was on his experienced shoulder but he could hardly live up to it.
Then there is a fitness concern, too. The 33-year-old was not always reliable when it comes to being fit for a major event, a bug that has cost India big-time lately. Hence, it was only natural that the selectors would look ahead.
Justice prevailed for Jadeja, finally
Ravindra Jadeja might have had a regular bout with injuries, thus missing out on a big chunk of India’s campaign, but his usefulness to the team in all three formats of the game has never been in doubt. Right after making a comeback to the Test set-up, Jadeja put up two match-winning performances and that was enough for the board to realize the happier Jadeja is the better it is for the team. Him being awarded the A+ contract validates the faith that the management has in him.
Has Axar done enough to be in A grade?
Axar Patel is an all-format player now, and at times, his effectiveness has gone beyond comprehension. However, has he done enough to be awarded an A grade? Then shouldn’t the same treatment be meted out to someone like Mohammed Siraj as well?
Axar is India’s third-best spinner in Tests and plays only home Test matches. In the last two series against Bangladesh and Australia, the Gujarat all-rounder failed to create an impact with the ball, even though his bat helped India save from many an embarrassment. In the other two formats, he is a bits-and-pieces player, who plays only when the situation demands.
On the other hand, Mohammed Siraj has done well to keep himself relevant in the ODIs and Test matches. In the absence of Bumrah, Siraj tends to become the most important pacer in the set-up - a role he has aced with elan. In such a situation, one could only be surprised by Axar’s promotion to the second-best tier.
Is Dhawan still in the plans?
When the selectors announced the squad for the Sri Lanka home ODI series, there was no place for veteran opener Shikhar Dhawan who was India’s second-highest run-getter in ODIs in 2022. While runs were never a problem for one of India’s finest batters of the generation, a strike rate of 74.2 in the year didn’t help his cause and you couldn’t blame the management for deciding to look at other options.
Considering the World Cup is happening in India, they would want an opener who is a lot more aggressive and can take the attack to the opposition from the word go, hence Shubman Gill fits the bill perfectly. However, by handing Dhawan a retainer contract, the BCCI has shown mixed signals.
Is he in the plans? Does India consider having a left-handed batter at the top in the absence of Rishabh Pant? Is the thought-process more situational? Well, your guess is as good as mine.
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