The latest edition of Bangladesh Cricket Board's showpiece event BPL is all set to go. The players' draft took place on Sunday. Seven teams finally got their squads sorted and will soon delve into the preparations for the tournament, which kicks off on December 11.
Global T20 superstars like Chris Gayle, Shahid Afridi, Dawid Malan, and Mohammad Aamir will feature alongside local stalwarts Mashrafe Mortaza, Mushfiqur Rahim, and Tamim Iqbal in this special edition, which is rebranded as "Bangabandhu BPL" to honour the 100th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The teams will start their preparations, once the national team is back from India. The experts and analysts are expecting a close tournament this year as the teams look pretty neck-to-neck.
On pen and paper though, big boys Dhaka Platoon looks to be the team to beat. With the likes of Mashrafe, Tamim, Afridi, and Wahab Reaz Dhaka are ready to set the tournament on fire.
Former national pacer Tareq Aziz Khan told The Business Standard that he picks Dhaka as the top dog for the tournament. For him the combination of Mashrafe and Tamim could do wonders, "T20 is a game of experience. Mash-Tamim combination is explosive. They can handle any sort of pressure on the field. I think Dhaka and Chattogram are the two sides to beat in this BPL. But on paper, Dhaka looks stronger."
Indeed, Chattogram Challengers have a strong batting line-up. National T20 skipper Mahmudullah will likely be at the helm. He has got strong batting firepower with Chris Gayle, Nasir Hossain, Ryan Burl, and Avishka Fernando in his squad. Their bowling is a mixed bag though. Kesrick Williams will lead their pace-pack, while the spin attack is balanced by the veteran Enamul Junior and Imad Wasim.
Chattogram will give the other teams a run for their money with their batting strength, feels former national opener Mehrab Hussain Aupi, "Chattogram has a strong squad as they have the iconic Chris Gayle. Though Gayle is at the twilight of his career, I still believe, he can pull a good number of fans to the grounds," Mehrab told The Business Standard.
However, Mehrab believes that Khulna Tigers has better balance in their squad than Chattogram. Khulna drafted Mushfiqur, who will surely lead the team. They also have the all-round prowess of Mehedy Miraz and the experience of Shafiul Islam.
Amid the foreign recruits, Khulna got South Africans Rilee Rossouw and Robbie Frylinck and Pakistan speedster Mohammad Aamir. The squad depth is solid as they have enough players at the bench to be altered.
"Khulna has a better squad than Chattogram as they possess a good bowling unit. Having Aamir in their attack would help them immensely. Their batting comprising of Mushfiqur and Rossouw does look formidable too," Mehrab said.
Meanwhile, star power might not be the all-conquering factor in this format. Hasibul Hossain thinks picking up pace at the right time can spur a pleasant surprise for the fans. The former pace-ace believes it can be the case for Cumilla Warriors, who does not have a superstar in their ranks. But if the likes of Soumya Sarker and Sabbir Rahman click at the right time they can be a formidable opponent.
Talking to The Business Standard Hasibul said, "Cumilla look interesting. Soumya, Sabbir, and Al Amin – all of them – are proven performers. But some of them are not in form. If they hit a purple patch during the tournament, along with their bowling strength, Cumilla can be a real dark horse."
Hasibul thinks the same for Sylhet Thunders. Sylhet also lack big-name drafts but have a good combination of youth and experience. They may have to rely heavily on the experienced Mosaddek Hossain, Johnson Charles, and Jeevan Mendis.
"Star power does put a value in T20s but consistency comes first. Sylhet has some good local players. Also, they have added seasoned campaigners like Mendis and Charles. Overall, they can create an impact," he said.
Rangpur Rangers also boast a bowling line-up that can easily be one of the best this year. Two Tiger pacers Mustafizur Rahman and Taskin Ahmed will surely take the new ball, while Mohammad Nabi will take over the spin department.
Former national pacer, Tarek Aziz Khan ranks their bowling attack as one of the more balanced. "The pairing of Taskin and Mustafiz may work great. Fizz is leaking runs and not in form. But we all know what he can do. Also, Nabi's role is crucial. He can lead the team as well," he commented.
Rangers' draft latest Tiger T20 sensation Naeem Sheikh will surely attract a lot of attention. But this may put this rising youngster under some unwanted pressure.
Tarek fears the same about Nayeem, "He is still young. After his success in India, people will demand a lot from him. It will be interesting to see, whether he can handle the pressure. We can hope for better things from him. But consistency will be the key. At times the pressure of expectation can be a bit too much on a young shoulder."
Last but not least comes Rajshahi Royals. Hazratullah Zazai, Liton Das and Afif Hossain's presence assure a lot of aggressive batting. While the veterans like Alok Kapali, Farhad Reza and Mohammad Irfan will help the team plan and execute well.
"Alok can be a leader for the team. He has that experience behind him. Rajshahi can do well. All they need is to plan well and use their resources properly," said Tarek.
The teams can still strengthen their squads. They need to bolster a squad comprising of 15-19 members. To fulfil the requirements they have options of buying the unused players from the draft or they can bring in players outside the draft list.