Are Test cricketers being short-changed?

The curious case of non-performers getting the top-most contract according to the new system.

Did Rohit Sharma deserve to be handed the top-most contract given his struggles in Tests overseas?   -  GETTY IMAGES

Does the BCCI’s new central contract system for India players recognise Test cricket as the primary form of the game?

The simple answer is ‘no.’ While Test cricketers have received a better deal, they still fall short of some players who have essentially excelled in the shorter formats or some like the promising Jasprit Bumrah, who have just started making their mark in the longest form of the game.

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Or have the contracts been guided by recent form? Take the case of Rohit Sharma, who has secured an A+ annual contract worth ₹7 crore.

His run of scores in ODI and Twenty20 cricket, formats that are his strongest flanks, from the tour of South Africa is 20, 15, 0, 5, 115, 15, 21, 0, 11, 0, 17. Rohit has just one substantial effort against his name in 11 innings.

For someone opening the innings, a definite advantage in the shorter forms of the game, he has been woefully inconsistent. On sub-continental pitches, he is a marauder in ODIs and Twenty20 cricket. But his dominance does not extend in more demanding conditions.

And Rohit was a contentious selection in the first Two Tests against South Africa — Ajinkya Rahane, India’s vice-captain in Tests, should have played instead — and averaged just 19.50 before he was dumped from the third Test. Rahane came into the 11 and made a ‘winning difference’ at the Wanderers.

Not someone who is comfortable countering lateral movement and bounce, Rohit, in Tests, averages 17.00 in England, 28.83 in Australia and 15.37 in South Africa; three countries where careers are judged for sub-continental batsmen.

Yet, Rohit walks away with an A+ contract. Something does not seem right here for he has never been an automatic selection in the Test squad.

In an ideal world, performances in Test cricket, the most comprehensive test of skill and temperament for a cricketer, need to be the benchmark — we also need to consider in what conditions the performances have come from — and then factor in the other two formats.

Take away the ICC World championship and Twenty20 cricket is still a lightweight format in international cricket. This is a form of the game whose dynamics are largely dictated by franchise cricket.

Test cricket and players who excel in it have to be given their due.

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