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BPL: Comilla and Khulna look the strongest, Chattogram could spring a surprise

Shakib's presence makes Barishal formidable, Dhaka has the Mahmudullah-Mashrafe-Tamim combo, while Sylhet have great balance

Mohammad Isam
Mohammad Isam
Faf du Plessis led the charge for South Africa, South Africa v England, 1st T20I, Cape Town, November 27, 2020

Faf du Plessis will lead one of the most experienced batting line-ups of the tournament  •  Getty Images

Comilla Victorians

Team overview
Comilla Victorians, the two-time BPL champions, return to the tournament after missing the 2019-20 season. And Comilla, who won the 2015 and 2019 editions, will be boosted by the return of their head coach Mohammad Salahuddin.
They have one of the most balanced squads in the tournament, with a good mix of experience and local expertise. Faf du Plessis and Sunil Narine are their marquee players, while Mustafizur Rahman, Moeen Ali and Cameron Delport are big names in T20 cricket in most places around the world.
Among the other batters, Liton Das is in good form, while Imrul Kayes has plenty of BPL experience. Parvez Hossain Emon is the wildcard in the top order, having struck the fastest hundred by a Bangladeshi in T20s, in 2020. Comilla have also roped in allrounder Nahidul Islam, a known T20 specialist, to add to the spin-heavy bowling attack.
A potent spin attack led by Narine, in addition to allrounders like Mahedi and Nahidul. Left-arm spinner Tanvir Islam could be one to look out for, too. A well-balanced batting line-up led by du Plessis. Liton and Imrul are capable of giving the team big starts, while Moeen will be in charge of providing a late flourish if needed.
A pace attack in which Mustafizur will have to do most of the heavy lifting. Oshane Thomas and Karim Janat are useful, but Shohidul Islam, Sumon Khan and Abu Hider all have their work cut out.
Squad: Faf du Plessis, Moeen Ali, Sunil Narine, Mustafizur Rahman, Liton Das, Shohidul Islam, Imrul Kayes (capt), Tanvir Islam, Kusal Mendis, Oshane Thomas, Ariful Haque, Nahidul Islam, Mahmudul Hasan Joy, Sumon Khan, Mominul Haque, Mahidul Islam Ankon, Parvez Hossain Emon, Abu Hider, Mehedi Hasan, Cameron Delport, Karim Janat.

Chattogram Challengers

Team overview
Chattogram Challengers will hope to go a step further than they did at the 2019-20 BPL, where they made it till the second qualifier, where they lost to eventual champions Rajshahi Royals.
But Chattogram overall had a decent outing in that season - which is probably why they have retained Rayad Emrit, Enamul Haque, Nasum Ahmed and Chadwick Walton, as well as head coach Paul Nixon. However, they are yet to name their captain for this season.
The line-up looks promising. Afif Hossain, Shamim Hossain and Zakir Hasan are all in-form Bangladesh players, and they have the overseas trio of Kennar Lewis, Will Jacks and Chadwick Walton to complement them well. Sabbir Rahman, who has now fallen off the radar, is also part of the team.
Shoriful Islam and Benny Howell will lead the bowling attack which also has Mehidy Hasan and Nasum Ahmed in the spin department.
Mrittunjoy Chowdhury, a left-arm quick who has impressed in the Under-19 and domestic circuit, is an interesting pick. Chattogram also have three wicketkeeping options in Walton, Zakir and Akbar Ali.
They have quite an impressive batting line-up that includes several foreign and local big-hitters, so they would hope their batters turn up well at the tournament and provide them with some solid starts up front.
The big names in the side will be expected to keep up with the pressure especially in the back-end of the tournament, where they let it slip last season.
Squad: Nasum Ahmed, Benny Howell, Kennar Lewis, Will Jacks, Shoriful Islam, Afif Hossain, Shamim Hossain, Mukidul Islam, Chadwick Walton, Rayad Emrit, Rejaur Rahman Raja, Sabbir Rahman, Mrittunjoy Chowdhury, Mehidy Hasan (capt), Akbar Ali, Naeem Islam, Enamul Haque, Zakir Hasan.

Fortune Barishal

Team overview
A Barishal franchise returns to the BPL for the first time since 2016. Burners and Bulls had their moments in the first four editions, but now we have Fortune Barishal.
Fortune Barishal had finished fourth - out of five teams - in the Bangabandhu T20 Cup in December 2020.
For the BPL, they signed up Shakib Al Hasan and coach Khaled Mahmud first up, which gives them a great think-tank. Shakib and Mahmud are linking up again after a coach-captain partnership for several seasons with Dhaka Dynamites, including their triumph in 2016.
They have picked a number of young Bangladeshi batters, a Mahmud hallmark. Najmul Hossain Shanto leads this pack that also includes Towhid Hridoy, Munim Shahriar and Salman Hossain. Chris Gayle will join the set-up slightly later on, adding a truckload of firepower and experience to the batting line-up.
They have a strong pace attack with Alzarri Joseph and Obed McCoy in lead roles, complemented by local left-arm quicks Mehedi Hasan Rana and Shafiqul Islam. They also have quality spinners to call upon, including Shakib and Taijul Islam, and Afghanistan ace Mujeeb Ur Rahman, who is likely to join the side a bit later on.
Variety in the spin attack. They have orthodox left-arm spinners in Shakib and Taijul Islam, and left-arm spin of the unorthodox kind from Jake Lintott. Mujeeb Ur Rahman adds a bit of mystery, while Nayeem Hasan is an accurate offspinner who's in great domestic form. A pace attack with three left-arm quicks. Obed McCoy will bring pace and guile, while Mehedi Hasan Rana and Shafiqul Islam have the local know-how.
If Shakib bats in the Barishal top three, that makes eight top-order batters in their squad. It would mean some of the younger openers may have to do an unfamiliar middle-order job. Not enough allrounders apart from Shakib and an aging Dwayne Bravo. Evidence from previous BPL seasons suggests that bowling allrounders are useful on slow and low pitches where teams tend to pick fewer out-and-out fast bowlers.
Squad: Shakib Al Hasan (capt), Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Chris Gayle, Nurul Hasan, Najmul Hossain Shanto, Mehedi Hasan Rana, Fazle Mahmud, Obed McCoy, Alzarri Joseph, Towhid Hridoy, Ziaur Rahman, Shafiqul Islam, Shykat Ali, Nayeem Hasan, Taijul Islam, Salman Hossain, Irfan Sukkur, Dwayne Bravo, Munim Shahriar, Jake Lintott.

Khulna Tigers

Team overview
Khulna Tigers, a team built around allrounders, are sending out positive vibes, they look like a team that can go all the way. The closest they got to that was the last time the BPL was held, in 2019-20, when they reached the final before losing to Rajshahi Royals.
Led by Mushfiqur Rahim and coached by Lance Klusener, Khulna's player choices, even the overseas ones, are tailor-made for Bangladeshi conditions.
Mushfiqur has Soumya Sarkar, Yasir Ali, Rony Talukder and Andre Fletcher as the main batters. Mushfiqur is also the wicketkeeper, Soumya bowls useful medium-pace, and Talukder is another keeping option.
The genuine allrounders include Thisara Perera, Mahedi Hasan, Seekkuge Prasanna and Sikandar Raza, with support from domestic stalwarts Farhad Reza and Mohammad Sharifullah. Most of them are capable middle-order batters, but they will mostly be required to do the job at the death.
Kamrul Islam Rabbi and Naveen-ul-Huq will lead the pace attack, while Khaled Ahmed is there to provide support. Rabbi has made his name as a good death bowler in recent BPL seasons, and has a burgeoning reputation as a big-hitter too. Veteran left-arm spinners Sohrawardi Shuvo and Nabil Samad will come in handy as the pitches get weary.
Allrounders. Perera, Raza and Prasanna have international pedigree while Mahedi isn't too far behind, particularly in the BPL.
Managing the expectations could be a big challenge for Khulna. They were finalists in the last BPL and given their overall strength this time, taking them down will give most teams a lot of pleasure.
Squad: Mushfiqur Rahim (capt), Mahedi Hasan, Soumya Sarkar, Kamrul Islam Rabbi, Farhad Reza, Yasir Ali, Rony Talukder, Jaker Ali, Khaled Ahmed, Mohammad Sharifullah, Sohrawardi Shuvo, Nabil Samad, Seekkuge Prasanna, Sikandar Raza, Thisara Perera, Naveenul Huq, Andre Fletcher.

Minister Group Dhaka

Team overview
Dhaka's ownership changed dramatically the night before the player draft last month when the consortium that had initially bought the franchise couldn't pay the bank guarantee. It left the BCB to take over the team, with selector Habibul Bashar getting only a few hours to prepare for the draft.
He went on to pick Mahmudullah, Tamim Iqbal and Mashrafe Mortaza. It was an interesting call because this showed the BCB's faith in these three senior players, who they have felt, at three instances between 2017 and now, were well past their prime, at least for T20s.
They have also roped in Mohammad Naim, Shamsur Rahman, Jahurul Islam and Shuvagata Hom among the local batters, apart from the Afghan quartet of Najibullah Zadran, Mohammad Shahzad, Qais Ahmad and Fazalhaq Farooqi.
They later signed Andre Russell, who at USD 250,000 is the most expensive player in the tournament.
They also have Isuru Udana of Sri Lanka, Rubel Hossain and Ebadot Hossain to round off a steady bowling attack.
Mashrafe, meanwhile, will miss the first few matches because of a back injury.
Dhaka are the most expensive team in the competition at USD 900,000. Comilla and Sylhet Sunrisers are next in line, but their respective spending in players has been less than half that of Dhaka, at around USD 426,000 and USD 418,000.
Balance in the line-up. They have a strong top and middle order, with Mahmudullah and Russell taking care of the death overs. The bowling attack is also well stacked up with the pace and spin bowlers.
The same as their strengths - they might be a bit over-reliant on those experienced players.
Squad: Mahmudullah (capt), Isuru Udana, Qais Ahmad, Najibullah Zadran, Tamim Iqbal, Rubel Hossain, Mashrafe Mortaza, Shuvagata Hom, Mohammad Shahzad, Fazalhaq Farooqi, Mohammad Naim, Arafat Sunny, Imran Uzzaman, Shafiul Islam, Jahurul Islam, Shamsur Rahman, Ebadot Hossain, Rishad Hossain, Andre Russell.

Sylhet Sunrisers

Team overview
Sylhet Sunrisers have picked a pretty balanced squad on paper, but a lack of genuine T20 match-winners may leave them short at some stage in the tournament.
Anamul Haque is set to lead a side that includes Colin Ingram, Lendl Simmons and Ravi Bopara among their marquee foreign players. He will also have batting cover from Mohammad Mithun, Alok Kapali, Mizanur Rahman and Nadif Chowdhury among the locals, while Mosaddek Hossain, Sohag Gazi and Muktar Ali are the main allrounders.
Taskin Ahmed will lead the bowling attack, along with Kesrick Williams, Shiraz Ahmed and Al-Amin Hossain. The spinners include Nazmul Islam, Jubair Hossain and Sunzamul Islam.
Mervyn Dillon, the former West Indies fast bowler, will coach the side; it's his first assignment in the BPL. Given their lack of top T20 names, Sylhet might have to play out of their skins to compete against top sides like Dhaka, Khulna and Comilla.
A lot will depend on Bopara, Ingram and Taskin. Ingram has to score quickly at the top while Bopara's middle-order contributions and four overs with the semi-new ball will be crucial. Taskin has to pick up wickets at the top, and fire in his yorkers in the death overs.
Very few match-winners and allrounders. Sylhet could perhaps load their team with bits-and-pieces cricketers, but that approach is seldom successful in T20s.
Squad: Anamul Haque (capt), Taskin Ahmed, Kesrick Williams, Colin Ingram, Shiraz Ahmed, Mosaddek Hossain (capt), Mohammad Mithun, Al-Amin Hossain, Nazmul Islam, Ravi Bopara, Sohag Gazi, Alok Kapali, Muktar Ali, Jubair Hossain, Mizanur Rahman, Nadif Chowdhury, Shafiul Hayet, Sunzamul Islam, Lendl Simmons, Devon Thomas.

Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84