Calcutta/New Delhi: After losing his Team India place to Ravichandran Ashwin, Harbhajan Singh has now been replaced by the young off-spinner in the top-bracket of the Board of Control for Cricket India's list of central retainership contracts.
Out-of-form pacer Ishant Sharma was also demoted from Grade A to B.
Harbhajan and Ishant have spent the better part of the year out of the team struggling for form.
The 26-year-old Ashwin, on the other hand, has played eight Tests since making his debut in November last year, grabbing 49 wickets. In the recent home series against New Zealand, he took 18 wickets in two Tests. In the ODIs, he has scalped 56 wickets in 40 matches. The Chennai-bowler also has 12 wickets from his 15 Twenty20 International appearances. The elite Grade A features nine players this year, three down from the last season, according to a media release issued by the BCCI.
With the retired duo of Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman out of the equation, Ashwin was only new name in the top bracket, the players in which are paid an annual retainership of Rs one crore each.
The likes of Sachin Tendulkar, Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virender Sehwag and Gautam Gambhir and fading pace spearhead Zaheer Khan retained their Grade A contracts. Virat Kohli, Suresh Raina and Yuvraj Singh completed the top category, all three retaining their contracts. In Grade B, the BCCI has offered contracts to eight players.