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Rangpur Riders set to unleash deadly opening combination

Brendon McCullum races after a ball Ashley Allen - CPL T20 / Getty

Previous season: Fifth in league stage

Big picture

At some stage of the competition, Chris Gayle and Brendon McCullum will open the batting for Rangpur Riders, which won't just be entertaining but is also a major coup for the BPL. In a team full of form players, Rangpur should expect a knockout spot this time.

The batting line-up will also have Kusal Perera, Johnson Charles and Sam Hain among their overseas options while among the locals, they have Mohammad Mithun and Shahriar Nafees.

Ravi Bopara, David Willey, Thisara Perera and Ziaur Rahman will provide all-round thrust while Mashrafe Mortaza and Rubel Hossain will lead the pace attack. A lot of the work, however, will fall on Samuel Badree who will get help from Sohag Gazi, Abdur Razzak and Elias Sunny in the spin department.

Apart from these options, Rangpur also have Adam Lyth and Samiullah Shenwari in their squad. This depth should help them launch a tilt at a maiden BPL title.

Key player

Brendon McCullum will miss the first few matches but once he arrives he will be expected to give Rangpur fast starts and set up chases. He is already this year's second highest run-getter in T20s with 1,172 runs at a strike rate of 152.20. When he plays his third match in this campaign, McCullum will become the fifth cricketer to complete 300 matches in this format.

Coach

Tom Moody's appointment as Rangpur coach is seen in Bangladesh as a major breakthrough for the BPL. The highly reputed Australian coach has worked in most T20 leagues, and was recently appointed coach of Multan Sultans in the PSL. This means he coaches in three different leagues simultaneously - the third team being Sunrisers Hyderabad in the IPL - while also holding director posts in the CPL and the Melbourne Renegades.

One that got away

Rangpur will not have the services of Mohammad Shahzad, who scored 350 runs at a strike rate of 110.06 in the 2016 BPL. He provided his usual fast starts with the bat and was also handy behind the stumps. But Shahzad has been out of competitive cricket since April, when the ICC charged him with a doping violation.

Below the radar

Ebadat Hossain, who was picked out of a pace-bowling talent hunt, has a remarkable story: he was playing volleyball for Bangladesh Air Force only last year, when he also made his first-class debut. This year he has been with the BCB's High Performance unit and also with Bangladesh A; his first appearance for Rangpur will be his competitive T20 debut.

Squad

Mashrafe Mortaza, Mohammad Mithun, Rubel Hossain, Sohag Gazi, Shahriar Nafees, Nazmul Islam, Ziaur Rahman, Fazle Mahmud, Abdur Razzak, Ebadat Hossain, Elias Sunny, Nahidul Islam, Brendon McCullum, Ravi Bopara, David Willey, Adam Lyth, Johnson Charles, Chris Gayle, Samuel Badree, Thisara Perera, Kusal Perera, Sam Hain, Samiullah Shenwari, Zahir Khan.