Bangladesh's second first-class tournament to start
Cricket in Bangladesh will take a step towards the right direction with the launching of the country's second first-class tournament. The Bangladesh Cricket League (BCL) begins on Thursday as a franchise-backed regional competition with a focus on bringing more leverage to longer-version cricket.
Walton Central Zone will take on Prime Bank South Zone at the Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur. In the other match, Islami Bank East Zone face BCB North Zone at the Shaheed Chandu Stadium in Bogra. Central are made up of players from Dhaka Metropolis and Dhaka Division, South's players are from Khulna Division and Barisal Division, East has players from Sylhet Division and Chittagong Division while Rajshahi and Rangpur players will play for North.
"This is eventually going to be the prime first-class tournament in Bangladesh," Naimur Rahman, the BCB's tournament committee chairman, said. "We have only considered the performers from this season's National Cricket League (NCL), and this tournament will have better competition and a higher standard.
"Our intention is to make the first-class structure stronger, because without it, we cannot expect development of cricket."
The tournament came into being only after the NCL could not get enough franchises after the BCB had decided to change its make-up earlier this year. As a result, the NCL continued in the usual format and this new tournament took shape. Three of the four franchises have gained sponsors but the northern region is yet to get a buyer, though the BCB is hopeful someone will pick it up during the tournament.
The tournament will be of single league format with each team playing three games each, all before Bangladesh's potential tour to Pakistan. The five-day final, set to be played with a pink ball under lights in Mirpur, will be held after the BPL Twenty20s in mid-February.
The squad selection was largely left to the franchises, who were given a list of 80 cricketers by the national selectors, chosen from the list of performers in the NCL. The selection of Mohammad Ashraful, who averaged only 13.22 in the NCL this season, is contentious, as is the non-selection of Shahriar Nafees. The left-hand batsman has been named in the reserves for the South Zone side, mainly because he didn't play much in the NCL, but at the time the tournament was on, he was in the Bangladesh Test side that was playing West Indies at home.
Meanwhile, Chittagong opener Nazimuddin and Rangpur allrounder Alauddin Babu have not been included as punishment for not participating in the Victory Day match on December 16. "They didn't tell us why they couldn't play the Victory Day match, so we informed the BCL committee not to include them," Akram Khan, the chief selector, said.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent