Mistakes of inaugural BPL prompt more 'realistic' follow-up
The controversies that marred the first season of the Bangladesh Premier League have forced the tournament to take on a more streamlined form in its second edition, as organisers look to right the wrongs. The league's chairman, Gazi Ashraf Hossain, calls the 2012-13 edition a "more realistic" tournament than the previous one and he has assured financial security for the players. A meeting on October 10 produced sweeping changes, including toned down players' pay packages at all levels and doing away with the icon player obligations of the franchises.
"It will be a more realistic tournament, catering to the call of the hour," Ashraf told ESPNcricinfo. "I am speaking about all our stakeholders. I don't want players to come here and experience the BPL for just a couple of years. We have the long-term in mind."
That long-term view has meant a drastic change in the players' retainers, after the organisers faced tough questions from players' associations regarding completion of payments. A team's highest paid player will this season receive no more than $150,000, replacing the structure from the first edition which had top players Shahid Afridi and Chris Gayle being auctioned at $700,000 and $551,000 respectively. The icon players were supposed to get 5% more than the highest paid player in their particular teams, but the franchises had never taken to the concept. Other foreign players stand to earn no more than $75,000 per season, while the other local players are set to earn between $10,000 and $50,000 - a more accurate reflection of their market value.
The players' auction will take place on December 7 and according to Ashraf, the teams will undergo a complete makeover. He is confident that despite the lower salary cap, the standard will not fall. "It will be a complete re-auction, 100%. We have had good response so far with some players from the IPL having already shown interest; their agents are getting in touch with us," he said.
"There won't be any icon players this season. The golden [top] category will not have too many players as we want to restrict it to eye-catching players who are of the highest caliber; of course, there can be local players in this category. The players are also our stakeholders and they will be totally secured. All bank guarantees will be taken, though I can't let out any more details on this at the moment."
The main obstacle the players have faced has been securing their payments from the first season. To ensure that all matters pertaining to payments are resolved at least three months prior to the next tournament begins, Ashraf says they have tentatively scheduled the franchise auction in November. This is a precautionary measure that he believes will force the existing franchises to act quickly on payments.
"We have asked the teams to send out all their due payments by October 20, if they don't meet the compliance standard, the franchise auction will be used to find a new franchise. Also, if the governing council feels it requires another team, the auction will be used," he said.
The organisers are also working towards drawing in a wider audience across Bangladesh by including Khulna as the third venue for the league and switching the venue in Chittagong from the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium to the centrally located MA Aziz Stadium.
"We will conduct an inspection of the MA Aziz Stadium, which will also host domestic matches this season," Ashraf said. "We are also keen to hold the warm-up matches at new venues.
"It will be a more organised tournament and despite the toned down measures, we also hope to earn revenue from the BPL, like we did last year. We also have the bank guarantee from Game On Sports [BPL's event management right-holders], so I am confident of financial success."
The BPL announced this week that the second edition will begin on January 17 but this scheduling would mean many of last season's top players would either be completely unavailable or available only for a few matches. Pakistan play in South Africa from January 25, while West Indies tour Australia from January 29. South Africa will also compete in a series against New Zealand till January 25. The Australian and Sri Lankan players will also be busy till January 28, so it is increasingly likely that the tournament will be a magnet for journeymen Twenty20 specialists.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Bangladesh