Saturday, March 24, 2012

What the BPL failed to do for Bangladesh cricket

Another Twenty20 league has come and gone. While the Bangladesh Cricket Board did a decent job of putting on a good show – within a reasonably limited amount of time, and with just enough teams to make the tournament competitive yet not long-drawn – there were more cons than pros.

The first news to come out of the Bangladesh Premier League threatened the integrity of the tournament itself, with Dhaka Gladiators’ Mashrafe Mortaza reporting an approach from a fellow cricketer regarding potential spot-fixing. Later on, there was an arrest made of a man suspected to be involved in fixing in the league. 'Innocent until proven guilty' and all that aside, this seriously put a cloud of doubt over the matches played.
Payments to players had also been raised as an issue, but this is not unique to the BPL. The now defunct Indian Cricket League had similar problems and even the Sri Lanka board had been under considerable pressure until recently to release overdue payments for its contracted players.

What surprised me the most, though, was the general lack of any serious contributions from young, unknown Bangladesh players. Here the unearthing of a ‘star in the making’ was woefully missing, unlike the IPL, which, for all its faults, has given India young hopefuls like R Ashwin, Varun Aaron and Rahul Sharma. Australia’s Big Bash League had some noteworthy local performers as well, like Travis Birt and Ben Edmondson. For sure, it brought some international careers that were considered as good as dead back to life, as in the case of Brad Hogg. But where was any of this in the BPL? Here are the stats:

1. Only one of the top-ten run-getters was local (Shakib Al Hasan at No. 10), three of the top 15 (Shakib, Mohammad Ashraful and Junaid Siddique), and five of the top 20 (Shakib, Ashraful, Junaid, Mushfiqur Rahim and Nasir Hossain), none of whom are new to the national setup.

2. Among the top 20 wicket-takers, there was only one Bangladesh bowler who does not bowl left-arm spin: Mortaza. Again, Mortaza is no stranger to the legions of Bangladesh cricket fans, and is in no way a "find". This just highlights the dependency of Bangladesh cricket on left-arm spinners, the lack of variation in any prospective attack.

3. No Bangladesh player scored more than one half-century in the tournament. At a time when more consistency is needed from the batsmen, this is as bad a piece of news as any.

4. Perhaps the lack of big scores from local players could be attributed to this: in only three innings (for Chittagong in the tournament’s second match, and for Rajshahi in the fourth and ninth matches) out of a possible 66, were both openers local. That is a measly 4.54%.

5. In the four semi-final innings, and the two innings in the final, only Barisal Burners had three local batsmen in the top six. All other teams had at least four overseas players slotted in from No. 1 to No. 6, with Khulna Royal Bengals playing four out of four foreign players from No. 1 to No. 4 in the second semi-final.

The greatest good to come out of the BPL was young local players rubbing shoulders with players of the calibre of Chris Gayle, Sanath Jayasuriya, Muttiah Muralitharan and Brad Hodge. One can say that overseas signings like Ahmed Shehzad, Nasir Jamshed and Shahzaib Hassan were successful, but these players were themselves students in the BPL, not nearly experienced enough to impart any considerable knowledge. Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal, meanwhile, were not available for long enough to have an impact.

Any domestic tournament, like the BPL, looks to produce players for the national setup. Commercial success is usually a secondary aim. The BPL just might turn out to be a commercial success in the long-term but the current format, with five foreign players permitted in the playing XI, hardly allows any local players to make a name for themselves, grab the selectors' attention, or push for a spot in the national team.

This entry was published in the Inbox section of ESPNcricinfo's Blogs:

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