Happy with the decision BCCI has taken with central contracts: MSK Prasad

Former selection committee chairman welcomes board's move; points out the differences between the different grades
India's Shreyas Iyer during a practice session before the second Test match against South Africa, Jan. 1, 2024.
India's Shreyas Iyer during a practice session before the second Test match against South Africa, Jan. 1, 2024.File Photo | AP

NEW DELHI: Even as reactions to the BCCI’s latest central contract list continue to come from various quarters, former senior men’s selection committee chairman, MSK Prasad, is pleased with the board’s decision to emphasise contracted players taking part in domestic cricket.

“I think BCCI has nailed it," he told this daily.

"By doing that, they have given a strong statement that domestic cricket is important and no one is above the game," Prasad added.

On Thursday, when the BCCI announced their central contract list, the biggest talking point was the omissions of Shreyas Iyer and Ishan Kishan. Shreyas had featured throughout the ODI World Cup, scoring 530 runs in 11 games apart from featuring in four Tests.

Ishan, so far, has featured in two ODIs and three T20Is in the period (October 1st to September 30th).

Had the BCCI left out their names, there was a possibility of assuming that they would come under Grade C on a pro rata basis as Shreyas had already fulfilled one of the clauses (qualifying for that by playing a minimum of three Tests, eight ODIs or 10 T20Is in the specified period).

At the same time, Kishan has worn the India Blue in two ODIs and three T20Is. However, the BCCI made it abundantly clear by mentioning that the two players are not being considered for contracts in this cycle.

Shreyas, who had complained of back pain after the Visakhapatnam Test, was left out of the rest of the series after a prolonged string of low scores. While the NCA reportedly declared him fit, the Mumbai player did not take part in the last two Ranji Trophy games.

Meanwhile, Kishan had not played any games for Jharkhand since taking a break for personal reasons in December. Recently, he was training in Baroda with Hardik Pandya, Mumbai Indians' captain.

Currently, both are taking part in the DY Patil T20 tournament, a corporate non-BCCI event.

“We are talking about Shreyas and Ishan; till recently, they were part of the Test squad. What is wrong in BCCI asking them to go and play domestic cricket? Have you given retirement from Tests? No. You still want to play Test cricket," Prasad elaborated on the non-inclusion of the two cricketers. 

"See, in England, someone not playing in the XI will be released. They used to release the players for the respective counties to go and play for them. Now, when board is asking to play domestic cricket, why should you not play? You want to be in Test squad, but you don’t want to play domestic cricket? Then what is the signal you are sending to domestic cricket and cricketers?," remarked the former chief selector.

The BCCI central contracts are categorised as A+, A, B and C. When asked if there should be specific contracts for white-ball and red-ball formats, Prasad explained the rationale in the current system.

”They are not clubbed. If they are playing only one format like T20, the player will be fit into category C," the former India wicket-keeper said.

"Or if he is coming under top ten ranks in the world in that particular format, he will get promoted. If a player is playing Test cricket and, say, he plays ‘n’ number of Test matches, like (Cheteshwar) Pujara, he was given A category in the past. R Ashwin now is in A category. We are very clear on that, the system is already there."

While Shreyas and Kishan are not included, Pandya India’s white-ball vice-captain until he got injured in the middle of the World Cup, but hasn’t played any BCCI domestic or international cricket since, remains in A category.

Prasad said how many matches a player plays and their performances will also be taken into consideration in order to preserve the match-winners.

“Jasprit Bumrah is an all-format bowler, Mohammed Shami is an all-format bowler, obviously they will find top categories. They are all seasoned performers, you need to carefully safeguard them. Like, between 2015-2024 how Mitchell Starc was safeguarded by Cricket Australia. In many matches, he was leaking runs, but they stuck with him because whenever it mattered, he proved and performed in the finals. So you have to preserve your players like Bumrah or Shami or Virat (Kohli) or Rohit (Sharma). They are the trump cards, they need to be preserved,” the 48-year-old added.

Fast-bowling contracts good move

Additionally, Prasad welcomed the selection committee move to recommend fast bowling contracts to Akash Deep, Vijaykumar Vyshak, Umran Malik, Yash Dayal and Vidwath Kaverappa.

“The selectors would have felt that these are the guys who might play for the country. Akash has already played. So what happens is once they get contracts, they will be centrally monitored by National Cricket Academy. The amount of workload, the effort they are putting will be monitored. Imagine, if someone is bowing 50 overs in the Ranji game, at some point the NCA will try to speak to physio or coach or whoever is there about properly looking after the bowlers or how much of rest should be given between games. That is the reason these contracts would have come in,” said Prasad.

Contracts system elsewhere (selected teams)

  • England: Scrapped red and white ball contracts in 2021. Have now started offering multi-year deals. Allows players to commit to one, two or three-year deals.

  • Australia: Importance of their place in all three formats is combined, which gives them a weighted average. They are then handed one-year deals, depending on their average.

  • Pakistan: Like India, they follow a graded system. But unlike the BCCI, players are given three-year deals.

  • South Africa: Board have made noises about offering single-format contracts but they haven't been put in place yet. Yearly contracts. 

  • New Zealand: Yearly contracts. 

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