The landscape of cricket in Bangladesh is set to be altered on January 19, when 180-odd cricketers go under the hammer during the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) player auction in Dhaka. The prospect of Chris Gayle, Shahid Afridi and Kieron Pollard being fought for by the six BPL franchises, who can spend up to $2 million each, is exciting, but it is the potential for a few Bangladesh cricketers to change their fortune through unprecedented riches that will bring fervor to the event.
On Thursday morning, the Radisson Blu Water Garden Hotel, the venue for the auction, will be buzzing with organisers, team owners and the media. The “open bidding” conducted by Cyrus Madan – better known in India as a horseracing expert and commentator – will take place behind closed doors. Each franchise will have six representatives seated at different tables, as it is for the IPL. It begins at 10.30 am and will be telecast live on Channel 9, a Bangladesh television channel.
The six franchises were bought for prices ranging between $1.01 million and $1.2 million, with SQ Sports picking up Chittagong for the highest value during the auction on January 10. SQ Sports had previously run the ChittagongTigers side in the Port City Cricket League. Orion Group bought the Khulna franchise for $1.10 million, Shakib Al Hasan’s presence as the icon player being the drawing card for a leading industrial conglomerate.
The BPL governing council released a list of 176 players, both international and local, a week ahead of the auction but are likely to update both sets before the hammer falls. Afridi, Pollard, Dwayne Bravo and Abdul Razzaq are the marquee names up for auction at a base price of $100,000. Some of the other players in the auction are Scott Styris, Shoaib Malik, Chaminda Vaas, Muttiah Muralitharan, Ajantha Mendis and Azhar Mahmood. Gayle, Dirk Nannes and Herschelle Gibbs will be available for a few matches.
The Zimbabwean contingent includes their captain Brendan Taylor, who is in the A category, while Vusi Sibanda and Stuart Matsikenyeri are in the B category. Taylor will join the competition five days after it begins on February 10. The base prices for categories B and C are $50,000 and $30,000.
The team owners, most of whom aren’t known faces on the cricket circuit in Dhaka, have hired ex-cricketers as consultants and most have finalised the coaching staff. They can buy up to eight overseas players with at least one from an Associate nation. A maximum of five overseas players are allowed in a XI.
The six icon players – Shakib, Tamim Iqbal, Shahriar Nafees, Mohammad Ashraful, Mushfiqur Rahim and Alok Kapali – could also feature in the auction, though their salary is not yet confirmed because the BPL governing council was asked to review their cost (5% more than highest paid player in franchise) by some of the teams. Among the listed local players, Mahmudullah, Abdur Razzak, Nasir Hossain, Junaid Siddique, Imrul Kayes and Mashrafe Mortaza will have their bidding start at $45,000.
A Bangladeshi player, who earns no more than 1 million Taka from first-class cricket and the Dhaka Premier League, could hit a massive payday since the base price of category C is about 1.6 million Taka.
For category A players, the bidding will increase by $15,000, while there will be raises of $10,000 and $5000 for categories B and C. BCB director Mahbubul Anam is the commissioner and will be called to resolve disputes if any should arise.
A franchise will be allowed to spend up to $2 million in the auction, though rumours abound that some of them have already negotiated with players, making the auction redundant. The admission by former cricketer turned commentator Athar Ali Khan, who is also a Rajshahi team consultant, that they have contacted players has cast a shadow over the bidding process.
“We will be very strict with underhand deals,” BPL secretary Sirajuddin Mohammad Alamgir said. “We have been hearing of these rumours but we won’t let it happen. There will be strict punishments for franchises and players, so I hope they refrain.”
Mohammad Isam is senior sports reporter at the Daily Star in Dhaka
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