India’s much-awaited new annual contracts include a new A+ category for those who play international cricket in all formats, but are a departure from last year’s attempts to keep Test specialists among the top tier earners.
Rohit Sharma and Shikhar Dhawan, fixtures in India’s limited-overs sides but always fighting for a spot in the Tests, made it to the newly introduced A+ category alongside captain Virat Kohli, Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. However, R Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Cheteshwar Pujara and Ajinkya Rahane found themselves in the A category after having been among the best paid Indian cricketers last year.
M Vijay, too, previously in the top category, found himself in the second-best group. There was also acknowledgement that MS Dhoni doesn’t play enough cricket to merit the top category he had retained last year. However, their retainer still went up from INR 2 crore (USD 300,000 approx) last year to INR 5 crore (USD 770,000 approx); players in the A+ group will take away INR 7 crore (USD 1 million approx).
Dhawan’s salary was 1400% of what he earned last year, Rohit’s was 700%, but Rahane’s was only 250%. The dramatic increase in the scale is the result of constant negotiations between the players and the board after players expressed displeasure at their retainers when compared to those of their peers in other countries such as Australia and England.
The BCCI has also trimmed the contract list from 32 to 26. Kuldeep Yadav, who helped India win his debut Test, in Dharamsala, and also formed a formidable spin partnership with Yuzvendra Chahal in limited-overs cricket, was a notable new face. He joined Chahal in category B, which carries a retainer of INR 3 crore (approximately USD 460,000). Chahal jumped from C to B, giving him a six-fold increase. Apart from Rahane, Hardik Pandya, the allrounder, is the only all-format player not in the top category. He too went from Grade C to B.