BPL 2023: A league of scavengers

Comilla Victorians' players Sunil Narine and Andre Russell, two of the many cricketers that BPL franchises have 'scavenged' from other leaguesComilla Victorians Facebook page

When one thinks of Dhaka, many things come to mind. The packed streets, ceaseless honking, dust turning everything grey, garbage scattered on the side of roads and crows feasting on it while letting out their piercing screeches, are just some of the things the residents of the Bangladesh capital have to endure on a daily basis.

Even the most ardent Dhakaite can’t be delusional enough to claim Dhaka to be an ideal city for humans. However, for an omnivore scavenging bird like the crow, living in a city where filth is abundant and roadkills are lying around every few hundred yards, is not too bad of a prospect.

For the last week or so, four Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) franchises have turned into Dhaka’s scavenging crows, and are circling the cities of the UAE and South Africa, looking for cricketers who are available to play a match or two.

The 2023 edition of BPL is at its final stretch. After a 36-day long group phase, Sylhet Strikers, Comilla Victorians, Rangpur Riders and Fortune Barishal have booked their places in the knockout stage, which will begin on Sunday.

After completing a lengthy group stage where each team played 12 matches, the franchises are now getting ready for the business end of the tournament.

Rangpur Riders latest acquisition Sri Lanka captain Dasun Shanaka trains with the team in Mirpur on 11 February, 2023
Rangpur Riders Facebook page

But a peek at the recent social media activities of these franchises would make it seem otherwise. Every other day, they are publishing posts welcoming new cricketers on board, something franchises usually do right before the start of the campaign.

Rangpur have welcomed five overseas cricketers to their ranks in the last four days– Afghanistan’s Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Naveen Ul Haq, England’s Tom Kohler-Cadmore and Sri Lanka’s Dasun Shanaka.

Out of them, Mujeeb and Shanaka joined the team on Saturday, a day before their eliminator match against Barishal.

The Shakib Al Hasan-led Barishal side have also made some last-minute acquisitions. South African all-rounder Dwaine Pretorius joined the team on Thursday, English pacer Reece Topley is expected to arrive by Saturday and Sri Lankan hard-hitter Mahinda Rajapakse arrived in Dhaka at midnight on Friday.

Defending champions Comilla have also beefed up their overseas might by flying in West Indian all-rounders Sunil Narine and Andre Russel on 7 February.

Comilla’s star Pakistani batter Mohammad Rizwan has left the team to join the Pakistan Super League (PSL). To replace him, Comilla have flown in English all-rounder Moeen Ali in the early hours of Saturday.

Table toppers Sylhet have made the least amount of last-minute procurements.

They brought in South African all-rounder George Linde on 7 February. Five days before that, they signed Pakistani pacer Mohammad Irfan and Afghanistan’s Gulbadin Naib to fill in for Pakistan’s Mohammad Amir and Imad Wasim, who have left for the PSL, which will begin on Monday.

However, the four franchises have not broken any rules with these last-minute acquisitions. This year, the franchises were given free rein to bring in as many overseas players as they want for however long.

The tournament’s governing body had no choice but to allow it as this time BPL was running simultaneously with two brand new cash-rich leagues– South Africa 20 and International League T20.

The BPL franchises couldn’t compete with the two new leagues and lost out on most marquee overseas players. But both those tournaments started their knockout phase on 8 February, a few days before BPL.

So, the cricketers of the teams that have already been knocked out of those competitions, are now up for grabs.

Moreover, BPL franchises are also set to lose their overseas Pakistani players as they will leave Bangladesh for the PSL.

Hence, at the final stage of the competition, the four qualified teams have no other choice but to bring in new overseas players.

Not all of the replacements will be like for like, meaning the teams will have to forget the team formula that brought them to the qualifiers round and experiment with a new combination.

Before the start of this year’s BPL, Shakib laid many accusations about the way the BPL is being run. One of them was there not being a set squad list for each team, which meant that even four-five days before the tournament, none of the teams knew who their players were.

With less than a week to go before the tournament ends, fans still don’t know for sure which player is in which team.

What more could one expect from a ‘scavenger league’.