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“Disappointing to not see Pujara bag A+ contract”

The BCCI’s decision to not award a Grade A-plus contract to Cheteshwar Pujara despite the batsman’s heroics in the Test series in Australia this winter has triggered a debate.

The player contracts for the 2018-19 season were announced after a meeting of the Committee of Administrators (CoA) in New Delhi on Thursday. Only three players – skipper Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and pacer Jasprit Bumrah – figure in the A-plus list.

While no other batsman could score more than 350 runs in Australia, Pujara scored a staggering 521 runs with the help of three centuries as India beat Australia 2-1 to register their first-ever Test series win on the Australian soil. He faced a staggering 1,258 balls in the series which is the most by an Indian in a Test series in Australia surpassing Rahul Dravid’s 1203 balls in the 2003/04 tour.

“It was disappointing not to see Pujara’s name in A-plus list. It’s highly unfair that Tests are not given importance by the COA. After enjoying such a fantastic season in international cricket, Pujara deserved to be in the A-plus bracket. The way the CoA is running the game in India, the less said the better,” lamented former BCCI secretary Niranjan Shah, who was also the secretary of the Saurashtra Cricket Association (SCA) for a long time. Pujara plays for Saurashtra in the Ranji Trophy.

“I fail to see a reason for this debate,” a top BCCI official pointed out to TOI. There was a template set last year after discussing with the team management. It was agreed upon that only those players who are automatic choices in all the three formats, and are ranked in the top 10, will be eligible for a Grade A-plus contract. This isn’t a subjective decision. Pujara still has an A grade contract, after all.”

Pujara plays for India only in the Tests, while all the three players in the A-plus category are regulars in all the three formats.

Why no Shaw, Agarwal?

Meanwhile, young openers Prithvi Shaw and Mayank Agarwal missed out because they aren’t yet eligible. According to the rules, a player needs to play a minimum of three Tests or eight ODIs to make it to the list. Both are set to be eligible for a C category contract as soon as they play their next Test, which will be their third.

The duo is yet to feature in ODIs. Shaw slammed a hundred on his Test debut at Rajkot against the West Indies, and was named ‘Man of the Series’, while Agarwal enjoyed a successful start to his Test career in Australia.

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