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Smith-Tamim partnership and the Warner question

Tamim Iqbal launches one over cover AFP

Comilla Victorians

Previous season: Knockout stage (P14, W9, L5)

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Despite losing five top players to the Big Bash League, including Rashid Khan and Jos Buttler, Comilla Victorians still have a strong squad for the 2019 tournament. Enlisting the services of Steven Smith, albeit with the Bangladesh Cricket League changing its rules to accommodate him, has bolstered an already experienced side.

Tamim Iqbal is set to open the batting with Evin Lewis, whose 89 in the third T20I against Bangladesh in December was a good reminder of the type of damage he is capable of, even on slow and low pitches here.

They will also have Shoaib Malik, possibly for the first four matches, after which Smith will take his place at No 4. Tamim will have Imrul Kayes, Anamul Haque and Shamsur Rahman among the local batsmen, while the side can choose from a pool of least three frontline allrounders - Shahid Afridi, Thisara Perera and Mohammad Saifuddin - and support in the department in the form of Liam Dawson, Mosharraf Hossain and Ziaur Rahman.

Abu Hider, too, is back with Victorians, where he had a breakout season in 2015, playing a key role in the side's title triumph with his 21. Following that season, he moved on to play for Chittagong Bulls and Dhaka Dynamites for a season each. Offspinner Mahedi Hasan and Sanjit Saha offer potential, while Dawson and Aamer Yamin could be crucial picks if Victorians choose to drop one of the overseas batsmen or frontline allrounders.

Key player

Tamim Iqbal, who will the Victorians this season too, enjoyed good form for Bangladesh in 2018, scoring heavily in the ODIs with significant contributions in T20s too. He was the Victorians' top run-getter last season, having made 332 runs at a strike rate of 132.80.

Unknown quantity

You will have to rely on YouTube clips to see what left-arm wristspinner Waqar Salamkheil does with the ball, as he comes off a long-ish run-up to bowl at a brisk pace. He has already taken 56 first-class wickets in just seven matches in Afghanistan, which include six five-wicket hauls and a ten-for. He counts Shahid Afridi, Colin Munro and countryman Mohammad Nabi among his ten wickets in this year's Afghanistan Premier League.

First XI: 1 Tamim Iqbal (capt), 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Anamul Haque (wk), 4 Shoaib Malik/Steven Smith, 5 Shamsur Rahman, 6 Shahid Afridi, 7 Thisara Perera, 8 Mohammad Saifuddin, 9 Mosharraf Hossain, 10 Mahedi Hasan, 11 Mohammad Shahid

Comilla Victorians squad: Tamim Iqbal, Imrul Kayes, Mohammad Saifuddin, Shoaib Malik, Liam Dawson, Abu Hider, Anamul Haque, Mahedi Hasan, Ziaur Rahman, Shahid Afridi, Thisara Perera, Mosharraf Hossain, Mohammad Shahid, Shamsur Rahman, Sanjit Saha, Evin Lewis, Waqar Salamkheil, Aamer Yamin, Steven Smith

Khulna Titans

Previous season: Knockout stage (P13, W7, L5, NR1)

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Khulna Titans were the underdogs in the BPL last year, and by the looks of it, they are likely to start with a similar tag this season too. Losing Jofra Archer to the BBL was a blow to their bowling attack but they still have Carlos Brathwaite to balance them out at No 6 and take charge with the ball.

The addition of Paul Stirling and Brendon Taylor will certainly add firepower to their top-order, while Mahmudullah, Brathwaite and Ariful Haque will look to provide the firepower needed for the death overs.

They also have varied bowling options in the in-form legspinner Yasir Shah, left-arm wrist spinner Zahir Khan as well as Lasith Malinga, one of the highest wicket-takers in the format. A lot will also depend on Taijul Islam, who was Bangladesh's leading Test wicket-taker in 2018.

Key player
Carlos Brathwaite struck 250 runs at a strike rate of 185.18 in the BPL last season, but he was an expensive bowler with five wickets in the 12 matches. He has however improved with the ball since then, picking up 41 wickets at 25.34 in T20s over the last 12 months.

Unknown quantity
The Pakistan-born USA fast bowler Ali Khan is likely to elicit interest from Bangladeshi fans if Titans pick him in the XI. With a bowling action that has some resemblance to Mashrafe Mortaza's, the 28-year old Khan has picked up 16 wickets in Caribbean Premier League 2018, at an average of 20.81.

First XI: 1 Najmul Hossain Shanto, 2 Paul Stirling, 3 Brendan Taylor, 4 Jahurul Islam (wk), 5 Mahmudullah (capt), 6 Carlos Brathwaite, 7 Ariful Haque, 8 Taijul Islam, 9 Lasith Malinga, 10 Subashis Roy, 11 Tanvir Islam

Khulna Titans squad: Mahmudullah, Ariful Haque, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Dawid Malan, Jahurul Islam, Al-Amin, Paul Stirling, Junaid Siddique, Mahidul Islam Ankon, Brendan Taylor, Carlos Brathwaite, Ali Khan, Shoriful Islam, Taijul Islam, Zahir Khan, Subashis Roy, Tanvir Islam, Lasith Malinga, Yasir Shah, David Wiese

Sylhet Sixers

Previous season: Fifth (P12, W4, L7, NR1)

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Sylhet Sixers have a mix of young and old playing under David Warner, and the side can be described as a strong contender for the knockout stages, at least.

Warner and coach Waqar Younis have three exciting home batsmen in Liton Das, Sabbir Rahman and Nasir Hossain, who are automatic choices at the start of the tournament. They also options in Taskin Ahmed, Afif Hossain, Towhid Hridoy, Jaker Ali, Ebadat Hossain and Mehidy Hasan Rana.

Among the foreign players, Imran Tahir, Nicholas Pooran, Sohail Tanvir, Mohammad Irfan and Andre Fletcher add T20 experience to the mix, while BPL newcomers like Fabian Allen, Sandeep Lamichhane, Gulbadin Naib and Pat Brown bring their different skills to enhance Sixers' all-round game.

Key player
Warner, in his first foray in the BPL, will look to use the competition as preparation for his international return in March. A strong BPL campaign would mean playing well in conditions that usually suit spinners, although he is likely to get some good pitches in their home venue in Sylhet.

Unknown quantity
Towhid Hridoy is Bangladesh's U-19 captain and did well in the Dhaka Premier League List-A competition last year, where he finished with 466 runs at an average of 58.25, with a century and four fifties for Shinepukur Cricket Club. He may, however, have to be patient to break into the Sixers' batting line-up, which already looks formidable.

First XI: 1 David Warner (capt), 2 Liton Das, 3 Sabbir Rahman, 4 Nicholas Pooran (wk), 5 Nasir Hossain, 6 Alok Kapali, 7 Afif Hossain, 8 Sohail Tanvir, 9 Imran Tahir, 10 Taskin Ahmed, 11 Al-Amin Hossain

Sylhet Sixers squad: Nasir Hossain, Sabbir Rahman, Liton Das, Sohail Tanvir, David Warner, Sandeep Lamichhane, Afif Hossain, Taskin Ahmed, Al-Amin Hossain, Towhid Hridoy, Fabian Allen, Mohammad Irfan, Nabil Samad, Ebadat Hossain, Alok Kapali, Jaker Ali, Gulbadin Naib, Andre Fletcher, Mehedi Hasan Rana, Pat Brown, Nicholas Pooran, Imran Tahir, Mohammad Nawaz