Associate players eyeing BPL platform

Rizwan Cheema raises his bat after his blazing innings against England Getty Images

The IPL has not been a fertile hunting ground for players from the Associate nations, with Netherlands allrounder Ryan ten Doeschate the sole owner of an IPL contract to this point. The Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), however, stands to be a different proposition. A league rule required each of the six franchises to buy at least one player from an Associate country, a nod to Bangladesh's own history as an Associate.

The players who were snapped up at the player auction earlier this month were Alex Kervezee (Netherlands), Kyle Coetzer (Scotland), Rizwan Cheema (Canada), Niall O'Brien (Ireland), Hamid Hassan (Afghanistan) and Freddie Klocker (Denmark). For them, the league is an opportunity to showcase their talents alongside international stars and in front of packed stadiums.

"This is kind of the world stage," Cheema told ESPNcricinfo. "Playing with international players, all the top players from around the world, it is a big chance for the associate players to show their abilities."

Cheema hammered 93 off 71 balls against England in a practice match before the 2011 World Cup to become an instant star in Dhaka. He was bought by Duronto Rajshahi for US$25,000. Their coach, Khaled Mashud, said Cheema was captain Mushfiqur Rahim's choice. "He is a good all-round cricketer and though we had some options on the table, we went for him," Mashud said. Cheema will be playing alongside the likes of West Indies batsman Marlon Samuels, Pakistan allrounder Abdul Razzaq and South Africa legspinner Imran Tahir. He said the tournament will be a great way to get vital experience before the 2012 ICC World Twenty20 qualifiers in March, where he will be Canada's vice-captain. "There is a lot to learn because there are so many people coming from all over the world."

The BPL is expected to draw big crowds for its first season and Cheema, who averages 30 at a strike rate of 121.38 from eight Twenty20 internationals, said that playing in front of a lot of people would be great motivation. "It gives you more energy and it really, really excites you. You want to do well when you see a lot of people around. It gives me more confidence."

At 22, Alexei Kervezee is the youngest of the Associate country players to be bought. Despite his relative youth, he has already played two World Cups and has played with Bangladesh allrounder Shakib Al Hasan at Worcestershire. He was bought by Dhaka Gladiators for $35,000. "Kervezee is a stable middle-order batsman and a good team-mate," Shihab Chowdhury, one of the franchise's owners, said. "He was recommended by our coach Ian Pont, who was with the Dutch team a few years ago."

Among Kervezee's team-mates are West Indies allrounder Kieron Pollard, Pakistan offsinner Saeed Ajmal and former Australia legspinner Stuart MacGill, and he said he was looking forward to picking their brains. "Being team-mates with proven high quality players of the likes of Ajmal, MacGill and Pollard, people like that, I can take advantage of that to become a better player. I think it will help me become an overall better player in Twenty20 cricket."

Lurking in the background, is, of course, the possibility of an IPL contract should any of the players excel. "You want to do well so the people can see you," Cheema said. "If you do well, you might get a chance to play for the IPL."

Beyond the potential monetary rewards though, the BPL gives the Associate players a chance to hone their skills in a different part of the world. "That's the professional life," Cheema said. "Go and play in different countries and with different types of players. Makes you stronger mentally, and technically too."