Rising off-spinner R Ashwin today replaced out-of-form senior tweaker Harbhajan Singh in the top bracket of BCCI's list of central retainership contracts, while struggling pacer Ishant Sharma was also demoted from Grade A to B.
Harbhajan and Ishant have spent the better part of this year out of the team struggling for form in whatever chances they have been handed.
The 26-year-old Ashwin, on the other hand, has played eight Tests since making his debut in November last year, grabbing 49 wickets. In the recent home series against New Zealand, he had taken 18 wickets in two Tests. In the ODIs, he has scalped 56 wickets in 40 matches. The Chennai-bowler has 12 wickets from his 15 Twenty20 International appearances.
Fast bowlers S. Sreesanth and Jaydev Unadkat have been dropped from the list of central contracts while L. Balaji, Ashok Dinda, Irfan Pathan and Yusuf Pathan have been granted retainer contracts of Rs 25 lakh after missing out last year.
The elite Grade A features nine players this year, three down from the last season, according to a press release issued by the BCCI.
With the retired duo of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman out of the equation Ashwin was only new name in the top bracket, the players in which are paid an annual retainership of Rs one crore.
The likes of veteran Sachin Tendulkar, under-fire skipper Mahendra Singh Dhoni, the struggling opening pair of Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir and fading pace spearhead Zaheer Khan retained their Grade A contracts.
The in-form Virat Kohli, middle-order batsman Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh completed the top category, all three retaining their contracts.
In Grade B, the BCCI has offered contracts to eight players, three more than last season with batsman Rohit Sharma being the only one to have retained his contract.
Pacer Irfan Pathan, who is on a comeback trail after quite some while in the wilderness, has been given a contract along with young players such as Ajinkya Rahane, Cheteshwar Pujara and Umesh Yadav, all of whom have been elevated from Grade C.
The players in Grade B are entitled an annual retainership of Rs 50 lakh and Grade C players get Rs 25 lakh.
In all, the BCCI has offered contracts to 37 players, which is the same as last year.
The list of BCCI contracted players:
Grade A: Sachin Tendulkar, M S Dhoni, Zaheer Khan, Virender Sehwag, Gautam Gambhir, Suresh Raina, Yuvraj Singh, Virat Kohli, R Ashwin.
Grade B: Harbhajan Singh, Ishant Sharma, Pragyan Ojha, Rohit Sharma, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane, Irfan Pathan, Umesh Yadav.
Grade C: Ravindra Jadeja, Amit Mishra, Vinay Kumar, Munaf Patel, Abhimanyu Mithun, Murali Vijay, Shikhar Dhawan, Wriddhiman Saha, Parthiv Patel, Manoj Tiwary, S Badrinath, Piyush Chawla, Dinesh Karthik, Rahul Sharma, Varun Aaron, Abhinav Mukund, Ashok Dinda Yusuf Pathan, Praveen Kumar, L Balaji.