LAHORE: Veteran all-rounder Mohammad Hafeez was demoted when the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) named its centrally contracted players here on Monday. The PCB promoted batsman Babar Azam as it handed new one-year deals to its pool of national players. In the new central contracts for the 2018-19 season, the PCB has raised the monthly remuneration for each of its categories ranging between 25-30 percent, and has also increased its players match fees by 20 percent across all categories. In all, the board handed contracts to 33 players – seven of whom fall in the newly created Category E. The new category is the PCB’s way to recognise the top performers of the domestic circuit as well as to encourage the continuing development of emerging cricketers. 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. Advancing years and frequent bowling bans due to his erratic action have seen the 37-year-old Hafeez’s utility to the team diminish. Those twin factors may have played a part in his demotion from Category A to B. The beneficiary of Hafeez’s slide has been top order batter Azam, who has been moved from Category B to A. The rest of the top category’s occupants remain unchanged. The size of Category B, meanwhile, has been increased from four to six. All-rounder Faheem Ashraf, opener Fakhar Zaman and spin sensation Shadab Khan are the new entrants into the category. All-rounder Imad Wasim, who last played for Pakistan in October 2017, has been demoted from Category B to C.Three players who were in Category C the previous year were omitted from the centrally-contracted list of players altogether. The biggest casualty is Ahmad Shahzad, who is currently suspended for a doping violation and awaits a hearing. Sami Aslam, who found his Test place usurped by Imamul 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. The 2017-18 financial year marked the conclusion of a three year financial formula agreed between the PCB and its players. After consultation with players’ representatives captain Sarfraz Ahmed and all-rounder Shoaib Malik, the PCB has reached a fresh three-year financial remuneration agreement with its players. “The central contracts selection committee — comprising director cricket operations Haroon Rashid, chief selector Inzamamul Haq and director academies Mudassar Nazar — recommended the names and PCB chairman Najam Sethi approved the list of players,” said a spokesman for the PCB.Category A Azhar Ali, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed, Yasir Shah, Babar Azam and Mohammad AmirCategory B Muhammad Hafeez, Faheem Ashraf, Asad Shafiq, Hasan Ali, Fakhar Zaman and Shadab KhanCategory C Muhammad Abbas, Wahab Riaz, Junaid Khan, Haris Sohail, Imamul Haq, Muhammad Nawaz, Usman Khan Shinwari, Shaan Masood and Imad Wasim,Category DRumman Raees, Asif Ali, Rahat Ali, Usman Salahuddin and Hussain TalatCategory EBilal Asif, Saad Ali, Muhammad Rizwan, Shaheen Shah Afridi, Sahibzada Farhan, Umaid Asif and Mir Hamza.Published in Daily Times, August 7th 2018.