Pakistan's international players are set for a significant earnings rise after a fresh three-year remuneration agreement saw salary increases between 25% and 30% for players across the central contract spectrum. The earnings ratio will apply to centrally-contracted players in each of the four traditional categories, A to D. Players' match fees will also go up by 20%.
In addition, a new category 'E' has also been introduced, which a PCB media release said was to "recognise performers on the domestic circuit as well as to encourage the continuing development of emerging cricketers from the junior cricket level".
The PCB also announced the list of 33 players who had been awarded central contracts - down from 35 last year. It sees very little change in terms of personnel from 2017's list of the players with category A contracts. Babar Azam, who was in category B last year, has been promoted to the top bracket, while Mohammad Hafeez, who didn't feature in any of Pakistan's five ODIs against Zimbabwe despite being part of a much-rotated squad, drops down to category B. Azhar Ali, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed, Yasir Shah and Mohammad Amir retain their places as category A players.
Most of Pakistan's young crop of players, arguably pivotal to their resurgence in the shorter formats over the past year or so, find themselves in category B. Fakhar Zaman and Shadab Khan were both promoted from category C, while Faheem Ashraf jumped two places, getting into category B after being in the category D list last year. Hasan Ali retained his category B slot, with Asad Shafiq and Hafeez rounding off the category for 2018.
Three players who were in category C the previous year were omitted from the centrally-contracted list of players altogether. The biggest casualty was Ahmed Shehzad, who is currently suspended for a doping violation and awaits a hearing. Sami Aslam, who found his Test place usurped by Imam-ul-Haq in Ireland and England earlier this year, is also out of a central contract. The same fate befell Sohail Khan, who has dropped significantly down the pecking order over the past year or so.
Mohammad Rizwan, who was named in category D last year as Sarfraz's deputy behind the stumps, drops down to the newly-introduced category E. He is the only wicketkeeper in the list of 33 players besides the captain. It serves to reinforce Pakistan's lack of options in that department; Sarfraz has played every single Pakistan game in all formats since being rested for the limited-overs leg of Pakistan's tour of Australia over 18 months ago.