Bangladesh Premier League 2012 February 17, 2012

Sparkling Gayle, and the Royal gaffe

We look back at the highs and lows from the first week of the inaugural Bangladesh Premier League

Thank God for Gayle
The sight of Chris Gayle in his wide stance was a godsend for the BPL organisers during the first week of the competition. His 44-ball 101 against Sylhet Royals lit up an otherwise dull opening day before another century, 116 in a losing cause against Dhaka Gladiators, delivered some more entertainment. His 288 runs from five games included 26 sixes.

There was some controversy, too, after umpire Dave Orchard ruled him not out despite a thick outside edge against Duronto Rajshahi in his second game. But Gayle promptly walked away after edging the next one to restore some spirit.

Gayle was worth every penny for Barisal Burners, who also deployed him for promotional work during the week-long stint in Dhaka, a city he berated after the stone-throwing incident during the 2011 World Cup. There was more misfortune for Gayle in the Bangladesh capital as the groin injury he picked up in his last game (against Chittagong Kings on February 16) ruled him out of the start of Dolphins' T20 campaign in South Africa.

A sea of green (bucket seats)

While the sight of Gayle lofting a six into the stands was the perfect advertisement for the BPL, the empty background remained the biggest question mark. Has a cricket-mad city suddenly turned its back on the game? There were several reasons put forward but the 17,000-plus crowd on Thursday, the seventh day of the competition, provided the partial answer. Despite the shorter duration of the format, people in Dhaka have a tough time commuting and hence the aversion towards a trip to Mirpur on a regular basis. The packed schedule has hurt as well, the afternoon game poorly attended on most occasions.

The move to Chittagong during the second week could show that matches at smaller centres may bring in bigger crowds. If the tournament was also played in Sylhet, Khulna and Bogra, BPL may well have been a super-hit across the country.

P for Pakistan

Gayle apart, it has been a tournament for the Pakistanis. Nasir Jamshed, Ahmed Shehzad, Imran Nazir and Azhar Mahmood have grabbed the rest of the limelight. The Dhaka league has been a haven for cricketers from Pakistan for the past two decades so when the six franchises opted for them during the players' auction it wasn't a surprise.

Jamshed, who has been playing in Dhaka for the past four seasons, has made the difference for Chittagong Kings in the absence of Tamim Iqbal. Jamshed's three half-centuries have come in victories while Shehzad has played the perfect foil to Gayle. Nazir, who has been coming to Dhaka since he was 13, has given Dhaka Gladiators the brisk starts while Mahmood, playing here as an Englishman, has been the all-round performer of the tournament. The misfiring Mohammad Sami picked up the first hat-trick of the BPL.

Gracious hosts

The Bangladesh players, however, have not made a huge impact yet. Only Mahmudullah, Alok Kapali and Mushfiqur Rahim have scored more than 100; Mohammad Ashraful, Imrul Kayes and Junaid Siddique have given mere glimpses of their current form. Among the younger lot, Anamul Haque and Mominul Haque have impressed, though their quick promotions up the Dhaka and Barisal batting orders have been confusing.

The bowlers, especially the slower variety, have had it better. Elias Sunny and Enamul Haque Jr have kept the left-arm spinners' flag flying by being the top two wicket-takers so far.

Indians in BPL, Pakistani following
The television coverage of the tournament has been styled in the mould of the IPL, with familiar commentators from that competition and an Indian presenter, even though cricketers from the neighbouring country have been kept away. Some of the celebrities present for the games have also been Bollywood stars. The fact that Zayed Khan, Neha Dhupia or the Sen sisters are past their prime is a point not missed in Dhaka. The more interesting revelation has been the BPL's moderate following in Pakistan, where the tournament's exposure has encouraged Pakistani players like Nasir Jamshed to step up.

The Royal gaffe
After their fourth loss of the competition, this correspondent had erroneously asked Sylhet Royals' fielding coach Jason Swift why his team has been fielding so badly. The Royals were, in fact, the beneficiaries of eight dropped catches by the Chittagong Kings in the game but still ended up losing. Some have described them as the Kolkata Knight Riders of the competition due to their importance to brand value and other marketing ploys, but even the KKR have had it better in the IPL.

The ownership of the Royals - whose cricket has taken a back seat - is reportedly shared among several companies and individuals. Some of their cricketing decisions - appointing Peter Trego as the captain and not picking a strong middle order - have also perplexed many. Clearly something is missing in the team coached by Stuart Law, the current Bangladesh coach, with a support staff that includes two former national selectors.

Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka