Sunday, April 14, 2024

BPL T20: The low-down

The much talked-about Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) T20 will roll into action today. Hopefully all the negative talk surrounding the BCB’s new venture will be swept under the carpet, at least for a while, as the action begins in earnest with the match between Barisal Burners and Sylhet Royals which starts from 2pm at the Sher-e-Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur. Chittagong Kings take on Duronto Rajshahi at 6.30pm at the same venue in the other match of the opening day. As a cricket-crazy public looks forward to nineteen days of high-octane cricket, the buzz among the cricket fans will revolve around the strengths and weaknesses of the six franchises. Here is our take:
Barisal have always been the underachieving team in domestic cricket but they could surprise many as the team think-tank bought the players with an eye to making a balanced side alongside icon player Shahriar Nafees; picking seven batsmen and two wicketkeeper-batsmen in in-form Mohammad Mithun and Phil Mustard. The seasoned T20 campaigner Brad Hodge will have the task of holding things together alongside the likes of Mominul Haque and Farhad Hossain but Barisal will definitely bank on dashing West Indies batsman Chris Gayle to draw early blood in the tournament.
There are proven performers Yasir Arafat and Shane Harwood in the pace bowling department while the spin attack sports a local look — Sohrawardi Shuvo, Sohag Gazi and Nazmul Islam.
Barisal have made some smart choices when it came to picking local players like Mithun, who is in the form of his life in domestic cricket. With a balanced outfit, it is now time to dispel their long-standing reputation as underachievers.
The big-spending franchise made a smart move when they handed over the team to coach Khaled Mahmud, who is highly respected in the domestic circuit for his cricketing nous.
The former Bangladesh captain has already proved his worth, shaping a team fit to deliver success on Bangladeshi wickets that offer low bounce and limited spin.
The focus will definitely be on dashing icon cricketer Tamim Iqbal who is expected to tear into oppositions with his likely partner Nasir Jamshed while the team will also expect some valuable contribution from Shoaib Malik. They also have in-form batsmen like Jahurul Islam and a solid middle-order with big-hitters Ziaur Rahman and Shamsur Rahman.
And one can’t forget the names of Dwayne Bravo and skipper Mahmudullah Riyad, Muttiah Muralidaran, Enamul Haque and Jerome Taylor, who will be the attacking options. It is expected that Arafat Sunny and Sanjamul Haque will be capable of pulling their weights whenever picked.
There is little to say when a batting line-up boasts players like Kieron Pollard, Imran Nazir, Mohammad Ashraful and Aftab Ahmed and the expected presence of Shahid Afridi in the tournament’s latter stages can only increase the heart rates of the opposition bowlers.
Ashraful and Aftab might not have justified their talents yet but they are perhaps the cleanest hitters of cricket balls in the country while the lively Nazir can destroy any attack on his day. Pollard and Afridi need no introduction.
If the big stars fail then they have Nazimuddin, Darren Stevens and Alexei Kervezee in their arsenal to bear the responsibilities.
The bowling attack looks like a strong unit with Rana Naved Ul Hasan leading the way while skipper Mashrafe Bin Mortaza has already showed that he is getting back his rhythm gradually to answer his low-price in the auction. The experienced Pakistan all-rounder Azhar Mahmood is also there, adding quality to the line-up.
In the spin department Elias Sunny and Mosharraf Hossain are more than capable of keeping things quiet, while they also have smart choices behind the stumps with Dhiman Ghosh and young Anamul Haque in the wicketkeeping position.
They are considered favourites not only because of their achievements on the domestic scene but also because of their strategy to put together the best brains in the team think-tank.
They have a solid batting order on paper as they have their captain and icon player Mushfiqur Rahim and West Indies Marlon Samuels who could be a key player in the tournament. The likes of Junaed Siddiqui, Asif Ahmed and the Canadian Rizwan Cheema will strengthen the line-up while Pakistani Qaiser Abbas is also a dependable left-hander in the middle-order.
The veteran but still energetic Pakistani Abdul Razzaq and Sean Ervine is expected to play a key role while Fawad Alam and Rajshahi’s very own Sabbir Rahman could be called into action in critical times. Imran Tahir and Saqlain Sajib will be the lead spinners.
Cynics say money may talk this time for Shakib Al Hasan. There are whispers that the world’s number one all-rounder is not as serious in domestic cricket as he is in the international circuit. And if that is the case then Khulna can expect something big in the tournament.
And Shakib picked up some important names for the shortest version of the game when he called the shots in the auction. Among the foreign brigade, the underrated West Indian Andre Russell, England basher Jos Buttler, Irishman Niall O’Brien and Herschelle Gibbs will be crucial. Among the locals, Nasir Hossain, the highest paid local cricketer, has the ability to justify his price.
There has been talk about the inclusion of aged players in the side but the presence of veteran Sanath Jayasuriya and the cool-headed Shivnarine Chanderpaul can give them some added advantage as well as be educational for the younger talent.
Fidel Edwards will lead the bowling attack with Shafiul Islam while the spin attack will be handled by Shakib and Abdur Razzak. And with a good fielding unit Khulna Royal Bengals is one of the teams to watch in the tournament.
Although there is a dearth of batsmen of international quality, many still regard them as the most glamorous franchise in the competition.
The batting burden will fall on the shoulders of the in-form Imrul Kayes, Shuvogoto Hom and icon Alok Kapali and they will be desperately looking forward to support from Pakistan discards Kamran Akmal and Faisal Iqbal. Despite Kapali being there, all-rounder Peter Trego has been named captain of the team and the Englishman will need to make contributions with the bat as the Royals have enough bowlers to call upon.
Coach Stuart Law has weapons like Sohail Tanvir in the bowling department as well as Rubel Hossain, Gary Keedy, Brad Hogg the rejuvenated Australian chinaman bowler — and promising leg-spinner Noor Hossain Munna in the mix.
The little-known Freddie Klokker and locals Naeem Islam, Faisal Hossain, Nadif Chowdhury and Arafat Salahuddin will lend the team the desired balance with a sound support staff and former selectors in charge.

-With The Daily Star input

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