BPL braced for Pakistan withdrawal
The BCB will wait till 10am (0400 GMT) on Wednesday for the PCB to give its No Objection Certificates (NOC) to Pakistan cricketers participating in this year's Bangladesh Premier League. If they are not granted, the domestic Twenty20 tournament, will begin on Friday without any Pakistani players.
"We will wait till 10am and if the PCB doesn't reply, the tournament will go on as per schedule without the Pakistani players," BPL chairman Afzalur Rahman Sinha said, after a long meeting at the BCB headquarters in Mirpur on Tuesday. "We won't bow down to any demand and have decided to carry on. We have already informed that to the franchises and asked them to arrange similar-quality players to replace them."
The negotiations between the two boards have reached a tipping point after the PCB continued to seek a confirmation from the BCB regarding a tour to Pakistan. The BCB has played a waiting game after cancelling a trip for the second time on December 31. After BCB president Nazmul Hassan met his Pakistani counterpart Zaka Ashraf on January 6, the BCB decided to send a second security team but that too has not gone down well in Pakistan.
The seven franchises have been told to seek replacements from among the players who were unsold in the auction, or else find players from outside the list. With two days left before the tournament begins, it is unlikely that the franchises will be able to find enough players to replace the Pakistan cricketers, so popular in Bangladesh. Khulna Royal Bengals is the franchise most hit, as they had bought the services of Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Awais Zia, Umar Amin, Ahmed Shehzad, Haris Sohail and Bilawal Bhatti.
The BCB had voiced confidence until Tuesday afternoon about the Pakistan players finally being made available but as no confirmation from the PCB arrived, the franchises frantically began to look for players in Australia and South Africa as replacements.
The second edition of the BPL has already become an organisational nightmare for the BCB ad-hoc committee members, who have spent most of the last four months trying to clear out payments to players and other parties. The ticket-selling situation has also hit a snag after banks have refused to sell tickets due to security fears.
"I admit that we could not complete the preparation yet. It is because most of our time was consumed clearing the payments of the first edition," BPL secretary, Ismail Haider Mallick, said. "The banks are not prepared to sell the tickets due to security reasons - four banks have backed out. We are hopeful that United Commercial Bank Limited (UCBL) will sell the tickets from Wednesday."
Finding replacements for the withdrawn Pakistan players could take some time but the organisers have not mentioned the possibility of a delayed start. Such a question is likely to be raised by the franchises before the media or the fans, because it is the teams that have to be restocked before the tournament can take off.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent