Teenage batting sensation Shafali Verma has been promoted to Grade B from Grade C in the annual player contracts announced by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for India Women. 

Senior left-arm spinner Ekta Bisht is among four players who have been dropped from the list, which itself has been pruned from 22 to 19 players.

Veda Krishnamurthy, D Hemalatha and Anuja Patil are the other omissions from the previous period, while another teen batting talent Richa Ghosh has been given a contract (Grade C) for the first time.

Verma, 17, is yet to make her ODI debut and her promotion shows how highly rated she already is. Her strike-rate of 148.31 is by far the highest across women’s cricket for batters who have played at least 20 innings. Her ability to consistently hit clean, cross-batted straight sixes could transform the women’s game if she is able to sustain it.

Meanwhile, Bisht’s omission is a clear sign the team is looking to move on from the 35-year old veteran who has played more than 100 international matches.  Although she is in the squad for the upcoming England tour, she has not played for India since November 2019. She was in Grade B last time. India have two other established, younger left-arm spinners in Rajeshwari Gayakwad and Radha Yadav, both in Grade B.

Along with Verma, Gayakwad and experienced top-order batter Punam Raut have also been promoted to Grade B from Grade C following their good performances against South Africa in the recent home series. The Grade A players remain unchanged.

“Shafali is seen as the biggest superstar that we will have in years to come and hence it wasn’t a surprise that she got elevated to Grade B from C. Punam Raut was rewarded for her good show in the South Africa series and she has also been promoted to Grade B,” a senior BCCI official was quoted as saying by PTI.

The contracts are for the period October 2020 to September 2021 with three categories: Grade A (Rs 50 lakh), Grade B (Rs 30 lakh) and Grade C (Rs 10 lakh). 

The men’s contracts had been announced earlier in April, with four categories: Grade A+ (Rs 7 crore), Grade A (Rs 5 crore), Grade B (Rs 3 crore) and Grade D (Rs 1 crore) for a total of 28 players.

Indian women’s central contract list:

Grade A (Rs 50 lakh): Harmanpreet Kaur, Smriti Mandhana, Poonam Yadav

Grade B (Rs 30 lakh): Mithali Raj, Jhulan Goswami, Deepti Sharma, Punam Raut, Rajeshwari Gayakwad, Shafali Verma, Radha Yadav, Shikha Pandey, Taniya Bhatia, Jemimah Rodrigues

Grade C (Rs 10 lakh): Mansi Joshi, Arundhati Reddy, Pooja Vastrakar, Harleen Deol, Priya Punia, Richa Ghosh

Featured photo: AFP / William West