The Board of Control for Cricket in India on Thursday announced the list of Central Contracts (senior men) it has offered to cricketers for the period from October 2019 to September 2020.

The BCCI has handed retainership to 27 players this time around, as compared to 25 last year. The four grades for the contracts remain the same – A+ (Rs 7 crore), A (Rs 5 crore), B (Rs 3 crore) and C (Rs 1 crore).

There are a few highlights in the latest list released by the BCCI, none bigger than the exclusion of Mahendra Singh Dhoni.

Here’s a comparison between last year’s and this year’s lists:

A+ (2019) A+ (2020)
Kohli Kohli
Rohit Rohit
Bumrah Bumrah
A (2019) A (2020)
Ashwin Ashwin
Jadeja Jadeja
Bhuvi Bhuvi
Rahane Rahane
Pujara Pujara
Dhawan Dhawan
Shami Shami
Ishant Ishant
Kuldeep Kuldeep
Pant Pant
Dhoni Rahul
B (2019) B (2020)
Hardik Hardik
Umesh Umesh
Chahal Chahal
Rahul Saha
C (2019) C (2020)
Kedar Kedar
Pandey Pandey
Vihari Vihari
Saha Saini
Rayudu Thakur
Khaleel Iyer
Karhtik Chahar

Here are the big takeaways from the BCCI’s latest list of central contracts:

No changes in top grade

The highest grade has remained the same from last year. Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah are the only players in that list and it’s hard to argue with this decision. These three are the only ones who walk into India’s playing XI in all three formats, irrespective of the opposition or the conditions. Kohli is still the undoubted leader in Indian cricket (apart from being arguably the best batsman in the world), Sharma has performed consistently in all formats and had a sensational 50-over World Cup last year, while Bumrah is inarguably the finest bowler India have at their disposal at the moment.

Dhoni dropped

Since India’s semi-final defeat at the World Cup in England last July, Mahendra Singh Dhoni has been away from cricket almost entirely. The likes of skipper Kohli, coach Ravi Shastri, and BCCI president Sourav Ganguly have all weighed in on Dhoni’s future but there is still no clarity on the matter. Now, after being in Grade A last year, the 38-year-old has not found a spot in any category this time around. This, of course, shows that the end is near for the former India captain, but it doesn’t change the fact that he could still make it to the T20 World Cup later this year on the back of a good Indian Premier League season.

Rahul rewarded

There were 11 players in Grade A last year, there are 11 this year as well. While Dhoni has made his way out, KL Rahul is the only addition to that list and rightly so. The top-order batsman has established himself as a vital cog in India’s limited-overs sides. He was in Grade C last year but a promotion was always on the cards. The 27-year-old from Karnataka has performed consistently for India in One-Day Internationals and T20Is and is expected to play an important role for the team at the World Cup in Australia this year.

Saha, Agarwal rise

Wriddhiman Saha has spent plenty of time on the sidelines due to injury over the past two years but the wicketkeeper-batsman has still managed to climb from Grade C to Grade B. After making his comeback in the Test series against South Africa last year, the 35-year-old was ruled out once again after fracturing his hand in a Test against Bangladesh. Saha, though, continues to be the first choice in the longest format every time he is fit, with skipper Kohli and many others often praising his glovework.

Mayank Agarwal, on the other hand, has made quite the debut in the BCCI’s annual list of central contracts. The right-handed opener from Karnataka wasn’t part of any list last year but has jumped straight to Grade B this time around. He has, perhaps, been rewarded for his phenomenal performances in India’s home Test season at the end of last year. Agarwal scored heaps of runs in the series against South Africa and Bangladesh and has firmly established himself as one of India’s Test openers.

Entries and exits

The BCCI has removed four players from last year and added six new names. Dhoni, Ambati Rayudu, Khaleel Ahmed and Dinesh Karthik are the ones who had a contract last year but have been left out this time around. Agarwal, Navdeep Saini, Shardul Thakur, Shreyas Iyer, Deepak Chahar and Washington Sundar are the additions. While Agarwal has been promoted a notch higher, the other five entrants have been handed Grade C contracts.