The payments controversy that plagued the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) in the past has resurfaced again, with several Chittagong Kings players - England's Ravi Bopara, Netherlands' Ryan ten Doeschate, West Indies' Kevon Cooper, Zimbabwe's Brendan Taylor and Surrey's Jason Roy - complaining to the BCB that they have not been paid. The players said the Kings' owner Sameer Chowdhury was to blame because he had failed to deliver despite making repeated promises to pay in 2013.
According to the players' contracts, which were underwritten by the BCB, the franchise was to pay the player in four installments, each transaction amounting to 25% of his auction fee. The first installment was to be paid at the time of signing the contract (January 15, 2013), the second by the completion of the league stage (February 19), the third within 90 days of the tournament ending (May 20) and the fourth within 180 days of the tournament's completion (July 20).
The players said Chowdhury defaulted every time. "Mr Sameer Chowdhury made numerous assurances that the money will be paid 'tomorrow' or 'next week'. He often goes as far to say that he has authorised the transaction and that either the bank is closed or it can only be done tomorrow," ten Doeschate told ESPNcricinfo. "We've also had numerous excuses of the money being kept offshore in Dubai and unable to be released for some obscure reason. We have obviously kept a record of text messages and emails to verify the above claims."
Chowdhury laid the blame on the BCB, saying the board was keeping the franchises in the dark about the future of the BPL, forcing owners to cap their expenditure. But according to the BCB chief executive Nizam Chowdhury, the board was just a guarantor and could not facilitate the payment unless the franchise informed it.
Ten Doeschate, who lives in England and plays for Essex, said he had been skeptical about playing in the BPL and only agreed after Chowdhury made promises over the telephone. The other reason he trusted Chowdhury was because he thought the Kings' owner was a successful global businessman.
"I was reluctant to fly out. He made promises on the phone before I flew out," ten Doeschate said. I heard he was a big businessmen, servicing big UK companies and I thought that the BCB guarantee would be enforced as they are members of the ICC."
Ten Doeschate said he had checked with the Kings' owner the day he arrived to play the tournament and when he noticed his request was ignored he decided to act. Along with Cooper he met Chowdhury and "threatened to go home" after Kings' first three matches. "Eventually myself and KC threatened to leave immediately if the payments weren't made. I'm talking about three games in to the BPL," Ten Doeschate said.
Consequently, ten Doeschate was paid a "tiny" amount of his salary but nothing after that. According to ten Doeschate, he has been communicating with Chowdhury "on an average twice a month" since last BPL but his attempts proved to be futile.
Fed up and frustrated, the players decided to go to the BCB. According to Bopara and ten Doeschate, the reason they sought BCB intervention was because they thought it would make Chowdhury deliver on his word. The pair contacted Nizam Chowdhury last November.
"We played open cards and let them know how Sameer has misled the players re the payments," ten Doeschate said. "We also told them that we were keen to get it out in the media and expose Sameer's incessant deception. We were asked to give the BCB till January to sort this out. This was all done telephonically. We then sent a follow up email to the BCB putting down what we had discussed on the phone. Again we have the records for proof."
Bopara said Nizam Chowdhury had assured him the issue would be sorted immediately but that was not the case. "He (Nizam Chowdhury) told me all money will be paid in December, I asked him to send an email confirming that but heard nothing from him after that phone call," Bopara said. "I sent him numerous emails asking for updates but had no replies."
Presenting his side of the story, Sameer Chowdhury blamed the BCB for creating hurdles. According to him, the BCB had been keeping the franchises in the dark about the future of the BPL and that was one of the reasons that payments had been held back. "There are few disputes between the franchises and the BCB, which have not been cleared. Because of that I have been waiting and I have been giving dates accordingly," he said. "If the BPL does not happen why should the franchises keep investing. BCB should take up the responsibility."
Chowdhury said he was going through a rough phase financially and that was the other reason for the delay, but he insisted he had intentions of making the payments. He cited the example of paying "a little" to Bopara, when he had played in the Dhaka Premier Division for Prime Bank Cricket Club last year. "My intention is to pay each of my players in full," Chowdhury said.
Nizam Chowdhury said the BCB could release payments only after the franchise had shared the details. "BCB is aware of all the unpaid wages and believes that every player, whether foreign or local, should be paid their dues. But there has been a problem of duplication with most franchises where the BCB is not made aware of which player to pay, or which player has been paid by the franchises. One must remember that the BCB are guarantors. Once the franchise asks us to make payments, we do so. But until we are told, we have wait for communication from the franchises."
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. Additional reporting by Mohammad Isam, ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent