Bangladesh Premier League 2012-13 January 16, 2013

BPL teams preview - Part II

Barisal Burners

Barisal Burners would hope they retain the luck they enjoyed in the inaugural season of BPL. They head into this year's tournament without last year's big force - Chris Gayle - and would have to bank on some of the effective players they have retained. The local talent, like last season, would have to shine through to enable them to progress to the semi-finals.

Barisal, during the auctions, seemed intent to retain their foreign players; Brad Hodge, Phil Mustard and Kabir Ali were all retained. They would, however, miss the services of Ahmed Shehzad, their top run-getter last year, and Yasir Arafat, their top wicket-taker. Spinners Saeed Ajmal and Sunil Narine, two of their key players, may only play for a week due to international commitments, but allrounder Azhar Mahmood is likely to be available for the whole season.

Among the local players, Mominul Haque is out from the side, but the likes of Alok Kapali, Elias Sunny and Shabbir Rahman are vital additions. All three are allrounders of varying abilities, but the acquirement of Sunny could be profitable, if he displays any of his form from the previous season.

Key player

Brad Hodge made 346 runs for Barisal last year at a strike rate of over 130. He led the team last year, and was famously checking into a flight when he was called up by the management at the last minute to play a semi-final nobody expected Barisal to play.

Major team changes

The biggest game-changer of the BPL is out, and that doesn't bode well for Barisal. The absence of Chris Gayle is a huge blow. Although he was only available for five matches last season, he hammered two centuries and Barisal took an early lead in the competition.

To mitigate Gayle's absence, the Barisal management chose the globe-trotting Azhar Mahmood. The allrounder played for Dhaka Gladiators last season and will be expected to have a major say, particularly with the bat, as it is likely that he will have to bat up the order in this team.

Below the radar

Sabbir Rahman is a lower middle-order hitter who bowls useful legspin, and possesses talent, according to local coaches. Apart from playing a vital role in Bangladesh's Asian Games' gold medal-winning game, however, Sabbir hasn't shown what he is capable of. He will be expected to hit the ball a long way and field well, but it would be a great loss to the man and the team if his bowling is underused.

Last year's performance

Runners-up.

Dhaka Gladiators

The Dhaka Gladiators won the title last season owing to their star power, which they would bank on this season too. They have filled up their squad with some big local and foreign players.

The local strength is led by Shakib Al Hasan and Mashrafe Mortaza, followed by Mohammad Ashraful, Anamul Haque and the in-form left-arm spinner Saqlain Sajib. It will be crucial for these local players to perform, particularly for Shakib, who will be returning to competitive cricket after suffering a shin injury and missing the ODI series against West Indies. Mashrafe has been named captain and will be expected to last the length of the tournament, though he would also have to take the full load as the team is thin on pace-bowling options.

The international stars Shahid Afridi, Tillakaratne Dilshan, Owais Shah and Luke Wright will be in charge of providing the thrust.

Key player

Shakib Al Hasan remains the top billing in this tournament and the race to get him in the side had six out of seven teams tied in a deadlock during the auction. Dhaka won the race by quoting more money, and they would be expecting him to fire with bat and ball. Shakib didn't have a particularly great time for Khulna last season, except for the semi-final in which he managed to turn everyone's attention away from the knockouts controversy with his sublime hitting that almost took his side to the final.

Major team changes

Imran Nazir has moved to Chittagong Kings this season. It will be a blow for Dhaka who will be without their best batsman from last season.

Tillakaratne Dilshan will have to fill in Nazir's opening slot, and that is an effective replacement. Dilshan will also bowl darts with the new ball, his brand of spin that will be highly effective in this format and on these wickets.

Below the radar

Soumya Sarkar came into prominence with a double-century in a regional Under-19 tournament. Though the score came against lowly Qatar, the left-hand batsman is one to look out for. He has opened the batting regularly with Tamim Iqbal last season for Victoria Sporting Club in the Dhaka Premier League, and will be expected to take a step up in this tournament.

Last year's performance

Champions.

Chittagong Kings

Chittagong Kings would hope luck doesn't desert them, unlike last season, when they were denied a place in the semi-finals at the last moment by the organisers, amid confusion. They have planned well this time, and have a team with many big hitters, but again, would be best advised not to include too many Twenty20 specialists in their line-up like last season.

Some of the smart picks have been Dwayne Bravo, Ravi Bopara, Ryan ten Doeschate, Jacob Oram and Brendan Taylor. Imran Nazir and Wahab Riaz - pending availability - will also be major contributors as will be Jason Roy, the talented English batsman, and their last season's surprise package, Kevon Cooper.

Mahmudullah, Enamul Haque jnr and Aftab Ahmed are important local players, but Chittagong will need contributions from Rubel Hossain, Marshall Ayub and Arafat Sunny if they are to have all-round balance.

Key player

Mahmudullah has always been an underrated player for the national side, but the 2012-13 season has been different for the allrounder. He has played in the Sri Lanka Premier League, withstood a barrage from West Indies' fast bowlers, and played an important role in Bangladesh's ODI series win over them. He is set to lead Chittagong in this tournament again, and his role in picking the right men would be important.

Major team changes

Although he played just two matches, the absence of Tamim Iqbal from the Chittagong line-up will be a tough one to fill. The inclusion of Ravi Bopara will give them batting strength, something that went missing for most of the tournament last year, mainly due to Tamim's absence.

Below the radar

Aftab Ahmed has been away from attention for far too long, particularly for a talented batsman. He played meekly for Dhaka Gladiators last season, and will have a grand stage to bring out his audacious shots. He would hope that his timid nature is not a hindrance.

Last year's performance

Fifth.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent

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