Naseem Shah and Iftikhar Ahmad were the two new faces in the 18-player men's central contract list for the 2020-21 season, which will come into effect from July 1, while the Pakistan Cricket Board also confirmed Azhar Ali as Test and Babar Azam as ODI and T20I captains for the period during which Pakistan is scheduled to play nine Tests, six ODIs and 20 T20Is, besides the Asia Cup and the ICC Mens T20 World Cup 2020.
Naseem Shah became the youngest Test bowler in history to take a fifer and a hat-trick in consecutive Tests against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in Karachi and Rawalpindi, respectively. Iftikhar, who had the best average and strike rate in T20Is amongst the Pakistan batsmen, played two Tests, two ODIs and seven T20Is in the 2019-20 season.
Naseem's bowling partner Shaheen Shah Afridi, who took the most Test wickets for Pakistan in the 2019-20 season, is one of the four players to get promotions.
Shaheen, following his 18 Test and two T20I wickets, has moved up in Category A, while Abid Ali (174 runs in three Tests and 74 runs in an ODI), Mohammad Rizwan (212 runs and 16 dismissals in five Tests, 50 runs and two dismissals in five T20Is) and Shan Masood (396 runs in five Tests) have been awarded with places in Category B.
Furthermore, and as part of its commitment and strategy to reward high-performing young cricketers, the PCB has created a new Emerging Players' Category, and the initial inductees are Haider Ali and fast bowlers Haris Rauf and Mohammad Hasnain.
Haider was a standout batsman for the Pakistan Emerging and U19 sides, whereas Haris and Hasnain showed their skill, prowess and utility in limited-overs cricket.
In addition to the three and to further recognise players who have performed excellently in the 2019-20 season and/or are in and around the Pakistan men's national team, the PCB are in the process of creating enhanced domestic contracts for the 2020-21 season so that they remained valued and motivated.
Hasan Ali, Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz have missed out on central contracts but will remain in contention for selection in what will be a busier cricket season as compared to the one that has just concluded, while Imam-ul-Haq, Sarfaraz Ahmed and Yasir Shah have slipped one category each.
Pakistan men's national team chief selector and head coach Misbah-ul-Haq said: "The philosophy and criteria for this merit-based central contract list was simple and straightforward: the selectors reviewed player performances in the past 12 months and then looked ahead to our team requirements in the forthcoming 12 months.
"I am thankful to the PCB Chairman for supporting our recommendation to give emerging player contracts to Haider, Haris and Hasnain. This is part of our forward-looking strategy and investing in the future, while also encouraging potential future national team players. I am sure this will motivate a number of youngsters in the 2020-21 domestic cricket to perform up to the expected level and earn such incentives.
"I want to congratulate Azhar Ali and Babar Azam for getting captaincy extensions. This is absolutely the right decision as they also require certainty and clarity on their future roles. I am sure they will now start looking to the future and start planning so that they can build sides that can perform at the expected levels.
"The selectors have made the tough decisions to leave out Amir, Hasan and Wahab but considering Hasan missed most of the season due to an injury and Amir and Wahab decided to focus on white-ball cricket, this was the right move. However, Amir and Wahab are senior and experienced bowlers and they remain in contention as we believe they can still contribute to the Pakistan men's cricket team and also mentor our young battery of fast bowlers.
"Rizwan has been promoted to Category B after being a regular member of the side, while Sarfaraz has been placed in Category B as he very much features in our future plans. We have some tough cricket lined up over the next 12 months where we will potentially require Sarfaraz's knowledge and experience."
PCB Men's Central Contract List for 2020-21:
1. Azhar Ali (Central Punjab)
2. Babar Azam (Central Punjab/Karachi Kings)
3. Shaheen Shah Afridi (Northern/Lahore Qalandars).
1. Abid Ali (Sindh/Lahore Qalandars)
2. Asad Shafiq (Sindh/Multan Sultans)
3. Haris Sohail (Balochistan)
4. Mohammad Abbas (Southern Punjab)
5. Mohammad Rizwan (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Karachi Kings)
6. Sarfaraz Ahmed (Sindh/Quetta Gladiators)
7. Shadab Khan (Northern/Islamabad United)
8. Shan Masood (Southern Punjab/Multan Sultans)
9. Yasir Shah (Balochistan/Peshawar Zalmi).
1. Fakhar Zaman (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Lahore Qalandars)
2. Iftikhar Ahmed (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Karachi Kings)
3. Imad Wasim (Northern/Karachi Kings)
4. Imam-ul-Haq (Balochistan/Peshawar Zalmi)
5. Naseem Shah (Central Punjab/Quetta Gladiators)
6. Usman Shinwari (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa/Lahore Qalandars)
Emerging Players' Category
1. Haider Ali (Northern/Peshawar Zalmi)
2. Haris Rauf (Northern/Lahore Qalandars)
3. Mohammad Hasnain (Sindh/Quetta Gladiators)