Shakib, Andre Russell the keys for Khulna
Big PictureIn a team sport like cricket, it's never good to shine the spotlight on just one man. But Shakib Al Hasan is not only the icon player of Khulna Royal Bengals, he could be the only man who matters in the end. Shakib was the lone cricketer at the team table when they bid for players in the auction, and it is clear that the Orion Group is quite happy to let the No. 1 allrounder in the world do his thing.
Credit then, to the former Bangladesh captain, for playing his part in picking some impactful Twenty20 names for Khulna. The foreign brigade includes the rather underrated West Indies allrounder Andre Russell, the experienced Herschelle Gibbs from South Africa, England's big-hitter Jos Buttler and Niall O'Brien, a handy wicketkeeper-batsman from Ireland. Among the locals, Nasir Hossain - who impressed with a feisty century against Pakistan in December, albeit in a losing cause - has drawn the most money. Veterans Sanath Jayasuriya and Shivnarine Chanderpaul will be a calming influence, though their effectiveness is arguably on the wane.
Fidel Edwards will lead the bowling attack alongside Shafiul Islam, a bit of a Twenty20 specialist for Bangladesh, while the spinners' roles will be handled by Shakib and Abdur Razzak. Despite some aged stars in the line-up, it still looks a good fielding unit with locals like Marshall Ayub and Dollar Mahmud promising some spark.
Star AttractionIt isn't a big secret that one of the main reasons for the Orion Group bidding for the Khulna franchise was Shakib Al Hasan. Bangladesh's best cricketer has that appeal, enough to even draw in a conglomerate to cricket in this manner. The BPL will be another shot at captaining international cricketers for Shakib, the weight of this job slightly more pronounced than his stint as Victoria captain in the Dhaka Premier League.
His popularity has been built around his consistency - his ability to score runs and take wickets when it matters most. He would be required to continue in this reliable vein for 19 days if Khulna are to pick up the trophy, conceivably Shakib's first major trophy.
Top playerShakib will be backed up by Andre Russell, a middle-order hitter and medium-pacer who picks up wickets regularly. In the West Indies side, he is an understudy to the captain, Darren Sammy, but many believe that he is the real deal as far as allrounders go in the Caribbean.
Russell entered the national consciousness during the World Cup, when he almost took a game away from England, a game crucial to Bangladesh's future in the tournament. Russell was excellent that day and though he lost the battle, he seemed to have imprinted upon cricketing minds in Bangladesh.
Under the radarAmong Khulna's unknown entities, only one player can boast of being a Twenty20 specialist, or at least a big-six hitter. Nazmul Hossain Milon has been nicknamed Chhokka Milon (Sixer Milon) for several years, but has never quite delivered on the big stage. Apart from the odd six-a-side tournament in Hong Kong, Milon is a talent unfulfilled. He can turn a game with his big straight blows, the most famous instance being his knock of 140-odd in the National Cricket League's one-day competition in 2007. He struck nine sixes that day, but the mojo has somewhat been lost since. He is still rated highly, though, as his price of $35,000 - this, after being placed in Grade C - suggests.
Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka