Revamped Dhaka League ready for kick-off
The Dhaka Premier Division Cricket League will kick off on Tuesday after enduring six postponements over seven months. The delays also pushed the 2012-13 domestic one-day tournament to the start of the 2013-14 season.
Defending champions Victoria Sporting Club take on newly-promoted side Kalabagan Cricket Academy at the BKSP, while the two other opening day matches will be held outside Dhaka - Gazi Tank taking on Khelaghor Samaj Kallyan Samity in Bogra and Brothers Union facing Prime Bank Cricket Club in Rajshahi.
The matches have been conferred with List A status by the BCB after nearly 39 years of the league being the country's most important professional domestic competition. Previously, it was the National Cricket League's one-day competition that was List A cricket in Bangladesh, but that stopped inadvertently in November 2010.
There will no longer be a question of legitimacy of the league. The champions will be internationally recognised, something that could have been the case a long time ago given its stature among players, officials and the general public.
The status will also finally remove the statistical black hole that Bangladeshi cricketers find themselves in about their performance in the Dhaka Premier League. Only for the last two seasons has the BCB maintained a comprehensive club-by-club statistical website. It is still not clear who the all-time highest scorer and highest wicket-taker is in the competition which began in 1974-75.
Nonetheless, there is widespread approval of the Dhaka clubs' contribution to Bangladesh cricket decades before it gained Test and ODI status. From providing players a climate of competition, giving them financial security and supplying a plethora of organisers for the BCB, they have tremendous influence on the country's cricket despite being merely a city-based league.
So much has been their influence that they held up the domestic season from February 25. The Dhaka Premier League was first delayed in March when the clubs didn't want to play without the national players who were touring Sri Lanka at the time. After they returned from Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe, they didn't want to play in June because of the monsoons.
The BCB gave five dates afterwards but the clubs didn't budge, although one of the delays was due to the board chief's apprehension about the ICC's BPL corruption investigation. The other delays were due to the clubs' unhappiness with the player transfer system and them needing more time to prepare, for which the commencement had to be shifted from September 3 to 10.
The delays have irked the players and undermined BCB's position, but both parties are unable to take a stronger stance. The players are bound by their own financial constraints. Not all of the players are in BCB's payroll or part of the BPL, so they can't speak too strongly against the clubs. The cricket board suffers from acute conflict of interest with the clubs, as most of the BCB officials are linked to the Dhaka clubs in some capacity.
While the influence has remained as much as it did in the 1970s, its tangible contribution has reduced in the last 15 years. Only a few of the clubs can boast of excellent training facilities despite their league budgets increasing every year.
The Dhaka Premier League's importance has also never let the first-class tournaments to gain similar relevance. For years, the National Cricket League was called "picnic cricket" as the players struggled to motivate themselves playing for lesser money, despite representing their own regions.
But the clubs have surged on, decade after decade. Whether cricket was the country's No 1 sport or not, the competition, and the rest of the Dhaka league system, has thrived and never had a dull season. It has provided context to Bangladesh cricket, added drama, highlighted players and created stars.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. He tweets here