Doubts over Afridi's participation in BPL
The day after its historic auction, the Bangladesh Premier League has seen a cloud of doubt over the participation of Shahid Afridi, the most expensive player, in the 2012 season. Afridi was bought for $700,000 by the Dhaka Gladiators but has told the Express Tribune he will not participate in the Twenty20 competition as it clashes with Pakistan's limited-over series against England.
The Dhaka franchise, though, has said Afridi will definitely be available for the tournament's semi-finals and final, should Dhaka get that far, and may even play the season opener if it is before February 13, the date of the first Pakistan-England ODI.
Franchise officials told ESPNcricinfo they were aware of Afridi's schedule before the auction and knew he might only be available for the final. Since Afridi will be paid on a pro-rata basis they decided to buy him anyway.
Afridi said he wanted to concentrate on playing for Pakistan and would use the days before the ODIs against England in the UAE to prepare for that series. "My preference has always been my national team and I'm looking forward to giving my best against England," Afridi said. "I will utilise the days before the series for training. I can only think about playing in the league when I don't have national commitments." He has not, however, informed his franchise or the BPL of his unavailability.
Afridi apart, though, there was much to celebrate about the auction, especially for the Bangladesh cricketers who earned lucrative contracts.
Allrounder Nasir Hossain was the highest earner among Bangladesh players, getting a $200,000 deal with the Khulna Royal Bengals, while the Chittagong Kings picked up Mahmudullah and Jahurul Islam for $110,000 each. Though these amounts were significantly less than those paid for big-name foreign players, six-figure dollar contracts were a first for most of the Bangladesh cricketers.
Nasir, 20, drew the most attention from local media but the signing of Mashrafe Mortaza was also noteworthy. Mortaza, the former Bangladesh captain, had famously been bought for $650,000 by Kolkata Knight Riders ahead of the second IPL season, but has not played cricket since April 2011 due to a persistent knee injury. He drew a modest price at the BPL auction, going to the Dhaka Gladiators for $45,000.
"I was expecting a price like this since I haven't been playing for quite a while," Mortaza told the Bangladesh newspaper Kaler Kantho. "Still, I got myself a team. It isn't that bad."
Even without Afridi, the Dhaka franchise seems to be one of the more balanced sides in the competition along with Chittagong, while many praised the Khulna picks too. "I think Chittagong are the strongest and Dhaka are equally strong," Athar Ali Khan, advisor to Duronto Rajshahi, told New Age.
Meanwhile, the BPL commissioner Mahbubul Anam told Kaler Kantho the Bangladesh Cricket Board would take responsibility for compensating the players should they not receive payments in time from their franchises. "The board has the bank guarantee on the players' payments," Anam said. "If anything goes wrong, the BCB will pay the money from that fund."