Balanced Barisal Burners could make a splash
Big PictureBarisal are not the most glamorous side in Bangladesh's domestic circuit. Alif Group bought the team for $1.01 million, a fraction above the base price for a Bangladesh Premier League franchise. Though Barisal have under-achieved as a division, their BPL franchise could surprise because the coach Sarwar Imran and the team consultant, national selector Akram Khan, have put together a balanced team, which includes icon cricketer Shahriar Nafees.
The 18-man squad costs a little over $1.4 million and it has seven batsmen. Brad Hodge is the most experienced of them and will have the responsibility of guiding the likes of Mominul Haque and Farhad Hossain. The expectations from Chris Gayle, who will be available for the first four matches, will be sky-high. The Burners also have two wicketkeeper batsmen: the in-form Mohammad Mithun and Phil Mustard.
The pace attack has international firepower, with Pakistan's Yasir Arafat and Australia's Shane Harwood, but the spin attack comprises locals - Suhrawadi Shuvo, Sohag Gazi and Nazmul Islam.
Star AttractionThe fact that Chris Gayle was playing the BPL raised the profile of the tournament, and when his name came up for auction at the Radisson Blu Water Hotel, the bidding for him was intense. The Burners eventually bought him for $551,000 after they and Duronto Rajshahi had both bid the maximum price. Gayle will be leaving after four matches to play for Dolphins in the South African domestic T20s so his performances could be critical in helping the Burners stay afloat, when the league gets tight later on.
Top playerFor a young team like Barisal Burners, Brad Hodge, who has 132 matches worth of Twenty20 experience, will be invaluable. His role will be to keep the innings steady after the initial burst from Gayle or Ahmed Shehzad, and to push for the 150-plus mark in the final five overs. Hodge's IPL experience with Kolkata Knight Riders and Kochi Tuskers Kerala will give him an edge in the BPL because of the similar nature of pitches in both tournaments.
Under the radarThe Burners made some smart choices while signing up local players. Mohammad Mithun is in the form of his life in domestic cricket while batsman Mominul Haque, allrounder Alauddin Babu and fast bowler Al-Amin Hossain are developing into good cricketers. But the bowler who has impressed with a discipline that is rare in Bangladesh is offspinner Sohag Gazi. His rapid rise to the Bangladesh A side hasn't had much effect on his bowling, which can be quite hard to score off in Twenty20 matches. Sohag is as Barisal as a Burner can get, so local pride will be running high.
Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka