BCB chief hopeful of Pakistan participation in BPL
The fall-out of Bangladesh's reluctance to tour Pakistan could be costly for the forthcoming second season of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), but the Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) is confident that cricketers from Pakistan will be made available. Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) chairman Zaka Ashraf's use of the word "might" in the case of the Pakistan players' availability has eased fears of a complete pull-out.
"I still believe that a large number of Pakistani players will play in the BPL," Nazmul Hassan, the BCB president, said on Tuesday. "He [Zaka Ashraf] didn't directly say that the players won't play in the BPL. He said that they will have their own league at that point of time, something which might not allow their players to come to Bangladesh. All I can do is hope for their availability."
The BPL is scheduled to begin on January 18, clashing with the Quaid-e-Azam Trophy, Pakistan's domestic first-class tournament. The PCB is unlikely to let some of the top Pakistan players take part in the BPL, though more than 50 cricketers were bought by the franchises in the auction.
The seven franchises will begin their training camps from the second week of January, with foreign players expected to start arriving from January 4. If the PCB is to give NOCs (No-Objection Certificate) for the BPL, the BCB would prefer them soon because a pull-out would require the governing council and Game On Sports, BPL's event management firm, to host a closed-door auction. In that case, it would throw the tournament into chaos, a scenario that is a major concern for the owners.
"We did not receive any information of the Pakistan players not attending this year's BPL yet. Of course it's a concern as all the franchises had plans with the Pakistani cricketers that they bought from the auction. If they (Pakistani cricketers) are not available we (the franchisees) will have to look for other options," Shihab Chowdhury, Dhaka Gladiators' managing director, said.
Another owner, Sylhet Royals' Nafeesa Kamal, believed that in the event of a pull-out, the franchises will not have enough players to fill those vacant spots. "Not having Pakistan players is definitely a concern and I think we should be informed soon about their status. If the BPL plans to hold a closed-door auction in the event of their unavailability, we will be left with very few good options."
The overall reaction to Bangladesh's deferment has been of relief in many quarters as the general perception in the country has been negative about the proposed tour. But the BCB is not ready to give up on their bilateral relations with their Pakistan counterparts, and the man having to answer all the questions at this stage, Hassan, has had to resort to diplomacy. "I haven't spoken to them [the PCB] officially regarding this issue. We haven't received the reply to our letter which we sent to them four days back.
"I am not blaming Pakistan, I understand their sentiment but this is not intentional. There is no politics in it. It's the situation that has compelled us not to tour Pakistan at this point of time," said Hassan.
There still remains a sense of confidence among those who run the BPL directly, but if the PCB announces a pull-out of the top players, new players have to be recruited at short notice. The BCB would start the new year on a bad note, off the field, if their money-spinning T20 tournament runs into problems.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent