In the days when a player looks to the Indian Premier League (IPL) franchisees to know where he stands, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) has done itself no favours by releasing a delayed list of contracted players and also, revealing the muddled thinking in their ranks. And this is not even about undermining the first ever Women’s Premier League final!

Who is writing this story is the question on everyone’s lips as the Indian cricket team’s contracts reveal not one specific person at the wheel steering the ship. This, after Chetan Sharma was mutedly removed from the picture – unclear whether by his own volition or coerced – following a television sting operation that could have overpowered the Border Gavaskar trophy but for some suppressive media strategizing on the part of the BCCI.

But what cannot be denied is that India are now without a chief selector. This makes the matter more dubious and also brings into question the professionalism which was brought to the fore as far back as during the Lodha reform, given that the contracts are not only late but also, do not fit in with the timeline.

The announcement of the annual player contracts for the Indian cricket players – coming almost six months after it was originally supposed to be released on October 1 2022 – and that too while the first ever Women’s Premier League (WPL) final was about to reach its climax, betrayed the operations of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and the Indian selection panel.

Questions could be asked first and foremost about the timing when the email announcing the player contracts reached the inboxes of media houses even as the first ever women’s premier league – their version of the IPL – finally took fruition in the form of a final that was moments into being concluded.

What an epic moment, stolen only the attention being diverted to the BCCI’s odd timing when it comes to revealing matters of importance without a semblance of an explanation in keeping with their lack of transparency issues.

It does send mixed signals about the importance assigned to the women’s game, particularly a final of a tournament the BCCI hopes to pivot on par with the IPL for the women’s game. But more on that later.

Although typical of BCCI operations, it has been stated that the contracts in no way reflect why omitted players cannot be selected for team India during the period. However, with as many as seven players losing out on contract from the previous cycle, and some curious names making the circuit, while missing a significant few names, the BCCI has managed to raise eyebrows. This is not only about who was behind this in the absence of a chief selector appointment post Chetan Sharma but also, about the timing of when these names were decided.

The elevation of Ravindra Jadeja and Axar Patel, while merited, does not fit the timeline particularly given that Jadeja returned from knee surgery for the series against Australia at home after a six month lay off.

There are questions about why Jasprit Bumrah is still in the grade A category when injuries have kept the strike bowler away from India’s duties for a significant period of time, including missing the ICC Twenty20 World Cup.

Much criticism has been put at his feet by the Indian cricket fans as well since Bumrah, while being India’s premier fast bowler this decade, has featured in the Indian Premier League but has had a string of injury time outs that have kept him away from India duties. The issue of privilege and favouritism is being questioned.

There is a feeling that there is no equity of thought process and consideration as someone like the upcoming Umran Malik from Jammu Kashmir has been left out of contracts despite representing India several times over the past one year.

Likewise, it is being questioned why Mohammad Siraj has been left languishing in Grade 2 when he is shaping up to be someone in the role of a player for all formats. He has been serving not unlike a workhorse, a role that Mohammad Shami has been forced to fill in the absence of Bumrah and not quite enjoying the same perks as the younger fast bowler.

Shikar Dhawan is on the list even though he has been dropped from all formats of the game, and his name on the list raises eyebrows about the BCCI’s intentions. The opener has spoken about his own disappointment and feeling that he will not be a part of the ICC Cricket World Cup later this year at home.

One player about whom there is no dispute and in fact consensus is K.L. Rahul. Despite his face saving solitary performance in one of the three one day internationals against Australia, K.L. Rahul’s lack of consistent performances, despite the former BCCI chief Sourav Ganguly’s backing, have often been labelled as someone enjoying biassed selection practices as alluded to by Chetan Sharma.

His demotion therefore to grade B seems on par with the performances. In some ways, it might still be a case of the long rope once again extending in Rahul’s favour after the unfortunate accident to Rishabh Pant in late December that has made the former the first choice of the Indian team management.

While Ishan Kishan and Bharat wait in the ranks, for an opportunity to do some glove duty and make themselves further indispensable, Rahul seems their choice and seemed as such even before Pant was injured, it has to be noted.

His demotion suggests work needs to be done even if he has managed to not only stay on the radar but beat his fellow teammates to the post when it comes to standing behind the stumps.

Most notably some of the biggest queries which could have been raised but instead have been muted could have been directed towards Hardik Pandya. Dubbed as the captain-in-waiting after taking the Gujarat Titans to maiden victory last year in the IPL, Pandya’s profile has been recently elevated which would explain why despite his injury lay off, nobody is questioning the presence of his name on the contracts list or the fact that he enjoys a high grade level.

This might have been dramatic and even dangerous as something of a precedent. But it has been precipitated by the fact that the Indian cricket team’s story over the past couple of years has remained on one theme.

Mixed results and a series loss to Australia on home soil in the year of the World Cup have put forth the impression that time is running out for Rohit Sharma who is failing to make a dent on the Indian psyche as captain more comprehensively, undermined ostensibly by the BCCI shenanigans that went into virtually firing the last man on the job, Virat Kohli.

In that light, the contract, while naming a crux of players, leaves too many questions to be even considered bordering on a comprehensive plan and team composition that reflects India’s dual World Cup ambitions.