BPL: Regrets outweigh the success

The Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) started out as a dream. A dream of starting a cricketing festival that matches the magnitude of the Indian Premier League (IPL). A dream where seeing the biggest names in cricket appear for a Bangladeshi domestic tournament becomes a regular occurrence with the magic of franchise cricket.

A dream of spreading the thrill of Twenty20 in the country’s cricket. A dream of uncovering fresh T20 talents.

The tournament, which began in 2011, will close out its ninth edition with the final between Comilla Victorians and Sylhet Strikers. So, after completing nine editions, how much of those dreams have been fulfilled?

Also Read

The answer, in a sentence, is that most of those dreams have remained unfulfilled. The BPL is taking place more or less out of obligation, with the bare minimum effort.

The franchise tournament, which started out with big dreams, has in many occasions become synonymous to disappointment. Whatever is expected from a franchise tournament, the opposite of that happens in BPL!

Also Read

The Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) wanted to take BPL on par with the IPL, which they have failed to do. BCB wanted to turn BPL into a cash-rich tournament, they failed. BCB wanted to keep BPL free of all sorts of external pressures and influences, they again failed.

They have failed to instill a professional structure in BPL. However, the franchises are as much responsible for this as BCB.

Out of the BPL franchises, only Comilla Victorians are somewhat professional. They have been rewarded for it with three championship titles in three finals. They try to hold onto local coaches for years, discover young players and try to fly in good overseas cricketers to form a formidable side, which only proves that they want to do well at the BPL.

Comilla Victorians have won three BPL titles, most by any franchise

Rangpur Riders also deserve credit for holding onto their identity. Now, they also have their own ground.

Other than them, the other teams are yet to mature into full-fledged franchises. They act only as the sponsor of their respective team. Some of the activities of the franchises that have been associated with the BPL for one-two seasons, don’t go with the concept of franchise cricket. The activities of some of those franchises can even be called dubious.

Rangpur Riders got eliminated after losing the second qualifier against Sylhet Strikers
Rangpur Riders Facebook page

The BCB also can’t deflect the blame. They don’t have many buyers lined up to purchase franchises, maybe that’s why they have to keep a loose leash.

But there is a small ray of hope. This year’s BPL was a little different. The BPL governing council didn’t budge under the pressure from a particular franchise to change the fixture mid-tournament. They have also pressured one franchise to timely pay their players wages, which has done the trick to some extent.

The franchises too can counter question– how can they financially benefit from participating in the BPL? For the lack of sponsors, they can’t bring in good overseas players and build a strong squad even if they want to. The BCB also doesn’t share the profits of BPL with the franchises. Then why should they waste their money for no reason!

It’s not a bad point. The BCB, franchises, cricketers and the country’s cricket– all need to benefit from BPL. However, each year when BPL gets closer- every party just talks about what they don’t have.

The tournament continues amidst the three-way blaming and counter-blaming of BCB, franchises and cricketers. Soon, the tournament ends and everyone forgets about the shortcomings. So the next time, the BPL again begins with those same shortcomings.

Like, the absence of DRS has become a regular occurrence in BPL. This time, the advertisements of betting related companies in the television and online broadcast of the tournament has come up as a new debacle.

Players losing their temper after a strange decision from ADRS, a familiar sight in BPL 2023
Shamsul Hoque

After the media panned the BCB for this, they reminded the broadcasters of the conditions in their agreement and managed to stop those adverts at least in the local broadcast.

Once, the best players of the world also used to play in the BPL. The player of the tournament would win a car. Now, seeing the picture of Shakib Al Hasan with the car he won as the player of the tournament in 2012 evokes a deep sigh.

The emergence of new tournaments ILT20 and SA20 has posed a new challenge for BPL. Nobody knows what’s next for BPL. Even earlier, there was no guarantee when the BPL would take place in the calendar year. With these two new tournaments, the situation could become even more uncertain. The marquee overseas players are also sure to gravitate more towards Dubai and South Africa than Bangladesh.

Mohammad Rizwan, one of the many Pakistani cricketers who took part in BPL 9
Shamsul Hoque

Without star overseas cricketers, franchise T20 cricket loses its gloss. How can the young players learn if there are no T20 specialists in the dressing room. The long list of ‘have nots’ hints at the disappointment of unfulfilled dreams. So, 11 years later, the name BPL evokes more regret than content.

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ashfaq-Ul-Alam Niloy