Mohammad Hafeez has rejected a Category C PCB contract. ESPNcricinfo understands Hafeez's reason for declining the deal is that he is unhappy at being offered the lowest grade of contract.
While Hafeez has been without a central contract since 2019, in 2020 he was offered Category A match fees for any game he played for Pakistan during the year, as a special case given his seniority.
He has since gone on to reinvent himself in T20Is, and is second only to Dawid Malan in terms of runs scored in the format in the last 12 months: 331 to the Englishman's 386, from one fewer innings.
Mohammad Rizwan, who is in prime form, has been elevated to the top category from Category B. Fawad Alam, who had an A+ category contract with his domestic team - Sindh - has been rewarded for a stellar return to the Test side with a Category C central contract.
Following a PCB review of performances, these three players were offered the upgrade in advance of the full list of central contracts, that will be announced later this year. The current contracts run till June 30. Both Rizwan and Alam accepted the offers, but Hafeez - now a T20I specialist - "politely turned down" the offer.
"The decision to promote the players was made during a meeting with the chair of the selection committee, Mohammad Wasim, while we were reviewing player performances in the 2020-21 season and discussing the upcoming commitments," Wasim Khan, the PCB chief executive, said in a statement. "It was agreed during the meeting that three players were the most deserving and outstanding performers in the season to date and, as such, they needed to be rewarded now instead of waiting for the time when PCB Central Contract List for 2021-22 will be reviewed and announced.
"However, Mohammad Hafeez declined the reward and, while I am disappointed, I fully respect his decision. He wants to wait for the PCB central contract 2021-22 list, which he is fully entitled to. Hafeez has been one of our star performers of the season and we hope he will carry the form and momentum to Africa. I am sure this merit and performance-based decision will once again send out a loud and clear message to all professional cricketers that the PCB will not only recognise, appreciate and acknowledge their performances and achievements, but will also reward them so that they can strive to do better next time."
Alam has scored 320 runs in six Tests since his comeback in August 2020, including centuries in New Zealand and at home against South Africa, the first one even earning him the PCB Individual Performance of 2020 award. As for Rizwan, he moved up to B last year after replacing Sarfaraz Ahmed as the country's leading wicketkeeper-batsman and, in the last nine months, he has become Pakistan's leading scorer in Tests with 529 runs in seven matches at an average of 52.90. He has also been elevated to vice-captaincy in Test cricket.
Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir remain out of the list, while Ahmed is in Category B, Shaheen Afridi and Azhar Ali have moved from B to A, joining Azam in the top category for PKR 1.1 million (US$ 7000 approx.).
The PCB has also introduced a new 'emerging' category for three upcoming players - Haider Ali, Mohammad Hasnain and Haris Rauf - while Naseem Shah earned a maiden Category C contract.
Umar Farooq is ESPNcricinfo's Pakistan correspondent