The Bangladesh Premier League is back after more than two years of trials and tribulations (quite literally). The BCB has tried to rebuild the image of the tournament after the fixing controversies of the 2013 edition and the payment issues that continue to dog the league since 2012. Here are a few things to watch for this time round:
T20 fine tuning
The third edition of the BPL was originally planned to be held in 2014 or early 2015 but payment delays and scheduling restrictions meant that it was pushed to the end of 2015. And, notably, there has been no domestic T20 tournaments held in Bangladesh since December 2013. With the Asia Cup (in a new T20 avatar) looming and the World T20 to follow, the timing of this season's BPL comes as a bonus for the Bangladesh players, giving them enough time to prepare.
Bangladesh have cracked the ODI code and will now have a chance to learn the intricacies of T20 cricket, a format where they have lacked nous. Bangladesh opener Tamim Iqbal himself believes that Bangladesh has a long way to go as a batting unit especially in T20s. Starting the innings positively, batting through the middle overs, and choosing the right balls to hit in the end overs will be key parts of the lesson.The bowlers too must sharpen their skills and make sure they pick the right moments to pounce. Some senior Bangladesh players have always felt that the inaugural BPL had a positive effect, opening up an opportunity for the youngsters to share the dressing room with international stars.
The problem, however, that the BPL had faced in the first two editions is the lack of raw talents. This problem may have seeped into this season as well. Bangladesh sees a lot of unofficial cricket where T20 is a preferred format, but none of the franchises have scouts or hold talent hunts. Instead, they always go with the tried and tested players offered by the BCB set-up.
After the protracted tribunal process and subsequent punishment handed to Mohammad Ashraful, among others, for involvement in fixing during the 2013 BPL, the tournament organisers have taken anti-corruption measures more seriously this time. The BCB now have their own Anti-Corruption and Security Unit, which has collaborated with the ICC's ACSU to educate the franchises. There have been three such programmes, where the franchises have been made aware of what to do, and what not to do. Motivational videos have also been shown to each of the six teams' players, officials, and owners. The BCB has also involved the local intelligence agencies for ground-level help, which includes having their men at the venues as well as at all the team hotels. Some of the teams have also hired security personnel of their own.
The other talking point of the first two BPLs was the unpaid salaries of many players. This was one of the main reasons for the BCB taking more time before setting up the stage for the third edition. The BCB has taken Tk 4.5 crore as a bank guarantee from each of the six franchises, which they will use if the franchises fail to make payments to their players. The breakdown this time is: 50% payment before the tournament, 25% during and 25% after the tournament. It has been learnt that a couple of the franchises have already offered the first payment to their players.
Besides drawing the attention of big players like Chris Gayle, Shahid Afridi and Shakib Al Hasan, the third season of the BPL has also attracted many foreign coaches. There has been some curiosity and expectation around Mickey Arthur, the Dhaka Dynamites' head coach, and Graham Ford, the Barisal Bulls coach. Many players have also turned up at the BCB academy ground to see how Ford conducts his training. Shane Jurgensen has returned to Bangladesh after more than a year as Rangpur Riders' coach, while Sarwar Imran and Mohammad Salahuddin, who take charge of Sylhet Superstars and Comilla Victorians, are among Bangladesh's most-respected coaches. Robin Singh and Aaqib Javed pulled out late but the Chittagong Vikings signed Marvan Atapattu just days before the start of the tournament.
Mohammad Isam is ESPNcricinfo's Bangladesh correspondent. @isam84