Former India captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni was relegated from the top-paid bracket after the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) on Wednesday introduced an A+ category (Rs 7 crore) in the central contracts for which only five players, including captain Virat Kohli, were picked. Dhoni was bracketed in the A category (Rs 5 crore) along with Ravichandran Ashwin, Ravindra Jadeja, Murali Vijay, Cheteshwar Pujara, Ajinkya Rahane and Wridhhiman Saha. Asked about Dhoni's demotion, a senior BCCI official said: "It's a simple logic that selectors have applied. Play more and get paid more. The five in question are indispensable in all three formats right now. They deserved to be paid more. Also Ravi Shastri, Kohli and Dhoni have been taken into confidence."
The suggestion to incorporate a Grade A+ category came from Dhoni and Kohli.
"This suggestion originated from Virat and MS in the discussions. The players wanted this category to be dynamic and to feature only the best performers," Vinod Rai told ESPNcricinfo.
Dhoni, who no longer plays Test cricket for India, along with Kohli wanted only those playing all three formats to be handed the top contract. In a sense, he put the interests of his players before his own.
"Their logic was this category would have only players featuring in all three formats, players who are in the top-10 rankings. They wanted a category of pure excellence where you perform and you are rewarded. And hence the players would not occupy a permanent slot in this category because if you don't perform then you slip down the order," Rai added.
Former coach Anil Kumble, who had initiated the discussions about pay structure, recommended the top contract of Rs 5 crore in his presentation before the CoA and BCCI bosses.
The batting troika of Kohli, Rohit Sharma, and Shikhar Dhawan along with pacers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah were selected for the A+ category, which will ensure them annual contracts worth Rs 7 crore each.
While paceman Mohammed Shami's name has been withheld on allegations of domestic violence and adultery by his wife, veteran Yuvraj Singh and young Rishabh Pant have been omitted from the last list even as Suresh Raina makes a comeback.
The B category will feature KL Rahul, Umesh Yadav, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Hardik Pandya, Ishant Sharma and Dinesh Karthik.
In Grade C will be Kedar Jadhav, Manish Pandey, Axar Patel, Karun Nair, Suresh Raina, Parthiv Patel and Jayant Yadav.
The Grade B category contracts are worth Rs three crore, while those in Grade C are of Rs one crore.
The annual contracts are for the period from October 2017 to September 2018.
From the previous Rs 2 crore (top category), the CoA-led BCCI increased it by 350 percent to make it Rs 7 crore. The second category has seen 500 percent rise at Rs 5 crore.
(With inputs from PTI)