Jayawardene, Moody criticise frequent rule changes in BPL

Tom Moody at a training session with Rangpur Riders players Raton Gomes/BCB

Mahela Jayawardene and Tom Moody, head coaches of Khulna Titans and Rangpur Riders, have slammed the constant changes to the Bangladesh Premier League's rules and regulations. Their criticisms follow the BPL governing council's announcement of August 4, which said that existing teams require a fresh franchise agreement to be part of the next four-year cycle as BPL franchise owners. One of the key issues affected by this announcement is also the transfer of players, like Shakib Al Hasan's recent move to Rangpur Riders from Dhaka Dynamites.

BCB director Mahbubul Anam, at a press conference on August 4, stated that player deals will become null and void because the franchises haven't signed the new deal with the BCB yet. "Since we have not yet made a new agreement for the new cycle, we cannot endorse whatever deals that have been struck by the franchises for the seventh edition," he said.

But according to a May 11, 2019, letter sent to the franchises, the BCB told them to "take necessary preparation" for the upcoming edition. According to multiple franchise officials, the renewal of their franchisee agreement is a mere formality, which they would have done in the background, while preparing for tournament.

Moody, who coaches Riders stated that "the consistency of the playing conditions and the rules set out for the franchises" was one of the most important elements in a T20 league, while Jayawardene said that changing the rules every year was "not healthy" for franchise cricket.

The timing of the governing council's announcement has irked most teams, who signed up local and foreign players for their four direct signings, and were planning to speak to existing and prospective sponsors. It has also brought into question the manner of functioning of the BPL governing council. Their press conference on August 4, which was attended by BCB director Mahbubul Anam, governing council chairman Sheikh Sohel and BPL secretary Ismail Haider Mallick, was called four days after Shakib Al Hasan left Dhaka Dynamites to join Rangpur Riders.

The Dynamites team also expressed its disappointment at not having been informed of the transfer by the player. The Dynamites franchise is owned by Beximco, where BCB president Namzul Hassan and Mallick are both employed. Their current coach is Khaled Mahmud, the BCB director. Shakib has played for the Dynamites since 2016, coincidentally, after having moved there from the Riders.

BPL's current rules suggest that Shakib, one of the league's "icon" players, is free to move. This rule was changed to reflect this a few seasons ago, and previously Mashrafe Mortaza and Mushfiqur Rahim also moved to move to the Riders and Rajshahi Kings, respectively, in 2016. Under the same rule, Khulna Titans and Comilla Victorians have reportedly roped in Tamim Iqbal and Mushfiqur for the 2019-20 edition.

"If we see things constantly changing on a whim the integrity of the tournament can be questioned both locally and internationally." Tom Moody

Moody, who guided the Riders to their maiden title in 2017, said that constant rule changes could bring the integrity of a tournament into question, locally and internationally.

"Having been involved in many T20 leagues over the past 12 years it has become very clear that one of the most important elements is the consistency of the playing conditions and the rules set out for the franchises," Moody said. "It is not important only for the franchises or the management, it is crucial for the fan base to have an understanding of what playing group not only local but international they are following. It gives them a loyal fan base. If we see things constantly changing on a whim the integrity of the tournament can be questioned both locally and internationally."

Jayawardene, who has been the Titan coach since 2017, said the constant changes were not fair on teams.

"Having long-term planning is important because what I felt when you keep changing rules every year and even while the tournament is on it is not healthy for any franchise cricket. If you see all the other tournaments around the world they always have consistent set of rules which guides all franchises and it is quite fair for everyone," he said.

Moody and Jayawardene are not the first to question the procedures and the fairness of rules in the BPL. The tournament has seen several modifications of rules and regulations, and playing conditions, and has faced issues of conflict of interest since its inception. Board officials either directly owning or indirectly connected with franchises is one of the issues. Apart from Hassan and Mallick's links with Dynamites, the Titans managing director Kazi Inam Ahmed is a BCB director, while chief selector Minhajul Abedin ran the Chittagong Vikings franchise last season.