The PCB has brought down the number of centrally contracted women cricketers from 17 to 10 in a bid to increase remuneration for those in the new retainers, and also, it says, in recognition of a small national pool of players. A condensed list has left Sana Mir and Nida Dar in the 'A' category, while Bismah Maroof and Javeria Khan have been demoted to category 'B' and the fourth level, 'D', has been removed altogether.
The trade-off for the reduction, however, is that the compensations are now higher. All three categories - A, B and C - come with higher pay now: a hike of 20%, 18.5% and 18% respectively. In addition, the length of each contract - hitherto always six months - has been increased to a year, starting from July 1. For the first time in 12 years, daily allowances have also increased - in training camps they have been doubled, making it Rs 2000 (approx. $13), as well as on foreign tours, going from $50 to $100. Travel upgrades for tours have also been introduced so that the team will now be traveling business class. All women cricketers will now also earn a match fee for each game of domestic cricket.
"The announcement of the new central contracts is a great story for the women's game in Pakistan and indicates the exciting times that lie ahead for cricketers in the country," Urooj Mumtaz, chief selector for the women's team, said. "The women cricketers have shown tremendous improvement recently and this is reflected in the central contracts being offered to them, which are reward-and incentive-based.
"With more international cricket scheduled over the coming months, this will motivate the girls to continue to perform strongly. Apart from the enhanced central contracts, we have also introduced incentives for the players in domestic cricket, who will now earn Rs 10,000 [approx. $64] per match. This is a small step in making women's cricket more professional and inspiring young women cricketers to take up the sport with a realistic opportunity to represent the country."
Meanwhile, PCB managing director Wasim Khan stressed that the changes reflected the respect and importance the board have for women cricketers. "The enhanced new central contracts form a key part of the vision to enhance the profile of women's cricket and our aim to strive towards a fairer system," he said in a statement. "As a responsible and professional organisation, we remain committed to investing in the growth and development of women's cricket. We want to strengthen the women's and girls' game at all levels so that our national team can continue to go from strength to strength."
That said, it's worth noting that Pakistan recently won an ODI series against West Indies for the first time under Bismah's captaincy - in February 2019 in Dubai - and subsequently drew the series in South Africa. Bismah's form with the bat hasn't been great in this period, but Javeria has been one of the stars, scoring 212 runs in nine innings in the past year, second only to Sidra Ameen's 241. Their demotion, therefore, does strike as odd.
Pakistan are currently fifth on the ICC Women's Championship table, and have a top-four finish, which will help them qualify directly for the 2021 Women's World Cup 2021 in New Zealand, very much in their sights. Their next assignment is against India.