Rishabh Pant lands Grade A contract after breakout season

Rishabh Pant’s successful run in international cricket over the past year has earned him a Grade A contract in the Board of Control for Cricket in India’s annual retainers list, announced late on Thursday, 7 March.

Pant, who was not a part of the contracted players list for the previous season, has been placed in Grade A, which comes with an annual retainer worth INR 5 crore (USD 713000 approx).

Pant has been one of India’s breakout stars since making his Test debut last year in England. He walloped a stroke-filled 114 in just his third Test, at The Oval, and followed it up with a successful tour of Australia, where he struck 159 in the New Year’s Test in Sydney, and set the Indian record for the most catches by a wicket-keeper in a Test in Adelaide.

Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Shikhar Dhawan were also new entrants into the A category, alongside Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Kuldeep Yadav, all three of whom were promoted from Grade B.

Dhawan and Kumar, on the other hand, were demoted from the top-bracket A+ category, with a retainer of INR 7 crore (USD 1 million approx.) and usually featuring only players to play in all three formats. Dhawan struggled for Test form for much of the last year and was dropped for the Australia tour, while Kumar picked up an injury at the start of the season, and though he was named in the squad for the Australia Tests, did not play a part in India’s series victory.

The three players to retain their A+ contracts were Virat Kohli, the top-ranked batsman in the MRF Tyres ICC Rankings for Tests and ODIs, Rohit Sharma, who is No. 2 in ODIs, and Jasprit Bumrah, who is the top-ranked ODI bowler. MS Dhoni, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, R Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja all retained their spots in the A category.

Other new entrants included Ambati Rayudu, Hanuma Vihari and Khaleel Ahmed into the C category. However, the likes of Axar Patel, Karun Nair, Suresh Raina, Parthiv Patel and Jayant Yadav were left out of the list altogether, along with opener M Vijay, who was in the A category last year but is no longer a centrally-contracted cricketer.

Other notable players to not land a contract were Vijay Shankar, the all-rounder, and the openers, Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal.

Shaw launched his India career with a century on Test debut against West Indies last year. He was subsequently named for the tour of Australia, before being flown back home after suffering an injury during fielding practice. Agarwal, meanwhile, scored two half-centuries in as many Tests in Australia in his debut series, while Shankar recently won India the second ODI of their ongoing home series against Australia, and is steadily pressing his case for World Cup selection.

Among India women cricketers, legspinner Poonam Yadav was awarded a Grade A contract, worth INR 50 lakh (USD 71300 approx.). Yadav topped the wicket charts for 2018 in T20Is, and was the joint-highest wicket-taker in one-day internationals, alongside New Zealand’s Leigh Kasperek. Other gainers included Jemimah Rodrigues, who was promoted from Grade C, worth INR 10 lakh (USD 14200 approx.), to Grade B, worth INR 30 lakh (USD 42800 approx.).

Jhulan Goswami was demoted from A to B, while Veda Krishnamurthy’s middling 2018 season gave her a demotion to C, alongside left-arm spinner Rajeshwari Gayakwad.