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BPL controversy over Bopara, Cobb NOCs

Mushfiqur Rahim was late to the toss as a result of two of his players in Sylhet Superstars not having NOCs Daily Kaler Kantho

The BPL descended into farce on the second day, when the Sylhet-Chittagong match was delayed by more than an hour because the Sylhet franchise did not have No-Objection Certificates (NOCs) for Ravi Bopara and Josh Cobb. When the NOCs did arrive after the toss, Chittagong refused to take the field since Bopara and Cobb were not included in Sylhet's original playing XI.

Trouble started when the scheduled toss didn't take place at 1.30pm as Chittagong Vikings captain Tamim Iqbal and match referee Raqibul Hasan stood near the pitch waiting for Sylhet Superstars captain Mushfiqur Rahim. Some of the BPL officials could be seen standing around the Sylhet dressing-room.

The BPL's technical committee chairman, Jalal Yunus, told ESPNcricinfo at this point that the toss was delayed, "because the BPL wasn't allowing Sylhet to take the field with two players since they didn't have the prerequisite No-Objection Certificates".

The toss took place with Sylhet deciding to field first and both captains went back in possession of each other's playing XI on a sheet of paper. Neither Bopara nor Cobb was named in the Sylhet team, although the list did not have their captain and manager's signatures at the bottom, while the Chittagong team sheet did.

The level of confusion then rose. As Tamim and Tillakaratne Dilshan were walking out to bat at 2.15pm - a delay of 15 minutes - they saw Cobb and Bopara walking out with the Sylhet players. Immediately the Chittagong openers returned to their dressing room, with BPL officials coming down to the field to take stock of the situation. There followed some heated exchanges among the BPL officials, Sylhet owners and Chittagong officials.

The crowd at Mirpur, around 2000 of them, started to get impatient and finally, at 2.55pm, nearly an hour after the scheduled start of play, the Sylhet players started to warm up with Cobb and Bopara sitting on the sidelines.

Tamim and Dilshan still appeared reluctant to head out of the dressing room and only after some more to-ing and fro-ing did they take the field. During this time, the Sylhet players had warmed up and taken their position and then got back together, warmed up a little more and returned to their fielding positions. The match eventually got underway at 3.08pm.

Yunus explained after the game that the BPL technical committee was willing to allow Sylhet to include Bopara and Cobb at the last minute, but Tamim had refused the request.

"The NOCs of Joshua Cobb and Ravi Bopara arrived at 1.59pm. The match was supposed to start at 2pm," Yunus said. "We had told them earlier that a player cannot take the field without an NOC. Accordingly, they sent the players' list.

"In the greater interest of the game, a captain could allow the opposing team to have a change in their line-up before the game, even after the toss. So we asked Tamim to consider that with his permission Sylhet can field the four foreign players. So we informed Sylhet that since the opposing captain isn't agreeing, you have to play without the two players. Sylhet agreed in the end, but a lot of time was wasted. We tried to solve the problem for the sake of cricket."

Yunus said Sylhet had "made a mistake" by allowing Bopara and Cobb to take the field. Without the pair, Sylhet were unable to field the mandatory four foreign players, required by the tournament rules. Sylhet included only Ajantha Mendis and Dilshan Munaweera, of Sri Lanka, with BPL officials allowing an exception.

Yunus was reluctant to blame Sylhet for the confusion, although he said it was the franchise's responsibility to provide the correct documentation. Changing the foreign players rule was necessary to avoid the match being declared a walkover to Chittagong.

"The delay was for the sake of cricket," he said. "It would have been a walkover had Sylhet said they won't play without the two players. We didn't want this to happen."

He added that the Sylhet management would be sent "a long letter on the matter". The BPL will also look into allegations that Sylhet owner Azizul Islam abused Tamim once a report had been submitted by the ACSU officer who was present.

An ECB spokesman said that it was the obligation of the relevant franchise to send such paperwork for the necessary signatures. Despite repeated requests from the ECB in the lead-up to the match, the NOC only arrived on Sunday and was returned to Sylhet at the earliest opportunity. The toss was scheduled for 7.30am UK time.

This was not the first time that there was a delay at the start of a BPL game. In the 2013 edition, Duronto Rajshahi players nearly boycotted their match against Khulna Royal Bengals.