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               Volume 11 |Issue 06| February 10, 2012 |


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Will the Bangladesh Premier League have a negative effect on the test side? Photo: Star File

BPL: A Risky Venture

Naimul Karim

The onset of the Bangladesh Premier League (BPL), a tournament based on the structure followed by the Indian Premier League (IPL), is going to beckon a new era in the country's sporting arena. With the Bangladeshi players costing over two million dollars, the tournament has created some of the richest sporting persons of the country.


Like its Indian compatriot, the BPL too can be considered a combination of the most-wanted aspects of the country. Financial stability, cricket, foreign cricketers and the additional presence of Bollywood actresses as ambassadors of clubs are perhaps the core factors of this money-driven sporting event. However before congratulating the Bangladeshi Cricket Board (BCB) for attempting to organise such a huge event, one can't help but reflect on the possible consequences that such a tournament can pose. Since the entire competition is based on the lines of the IPL, a review of the five-year-old Indian league can perhaps best describe the possible repercussions.

With the third season of the IPL marked by a huge amount of corruption, which led to a change in the chairman of the league and the resignation of a popular minister in the country, it was clear that the IPL was treated as a profit-making venture. It was an enterprise that people from every powerful fraternity of the country wanted to be a part of. The situation was perhaps best described in an article by the Chief Editor of India Today, Aroon Poorie, who wrote, “The great pity in India is that creations like the I.P.L. became a victim of their own success. Where there is money involved, especially large sums, corruption is not far behind.” With millions of dollars involved, especially in a country like ours, it wouldn't be a surprise to find the BPL in a similar position in the future.

Adding to the worry is a recent report published by the International Cricket Council, which accuses the IPL and other similar tournaments of having the 'potential to increase the risk of match-fixing and spot-fixing.' The review further states, “The IPL brings with it the biggest threat in terms of corruption in the game since the days of cricket in Sharjah.”

Despite the possible threats, senior players from the camp feel that the tournament can only improve the standard of first-class cricket in Bangladesh. “Our domestic players don't often get a chance to play against international players. With this tournament they are bound to get more competitive by getting more exposure,” says Habibul Bashar.

The commercialisation of twenty-twenty cricket through such tournaments have often been accused of 'killing' test cricket. For instance, Bishan Singh Bedi, former Indian captain, in an interview last month, blamed the IPL for India's recent string of overseas test defeats. Bedi was quoted saying, “The game of cricket always had a philosophy but sadly IPL doesn't have any philosophy. It's just a 'hit and run' game. Cricket is indeed a commercial game but the BCCI should have known where to draw a line as far as commerce is concerned." Perhaps the most recent criticism of the lucrative league came from the legendary Pakistani cricketer, Imran Khan, who in a recent interview claimed that India was focusing too much on the shortest version of the game.

Photo: Star File  

According to Soumitro Bose, a sports journalist who currently heads the Digital Media department at ESPN, the IPL has caused various kinds of distractions, “Excessive money can impede focus. One cannot ignore the excessive travelling that certainly takes a physical and mental toll on international cricketers. Sehwag, Zaheer, Harbhajan have all suffered from an overkill of cricket,” he says

However, arguments made against the above theory state that with proper management one can avoid such tournaments from having a negative effect on test matches. The Australian Big Bash league is perhaps a classic example. Prior to India's arrival, Australian players went to their respective sides and reported in time for the test series.

By following the IPL one wonders if the BCB can strike a balance between the commercialisation of cricket and the development of its players. With Bangladesh's bizarre test record, will the introduction of BPL work out positively for the higher interest of the game? Bashar certainly think so. “The high amount of money will encourage players to perform well in first-class cricket since that's the only way a person can get into a BPL team. The strengthening of our first-class cricket will further improve test cricket,” he explains.

However, Bose who claims that the IPL shuns the virtues of test cricket thinks otherwise. “BPL will do nothing to improve the image of Bangladesh's Test cricket. At best, it will expose some local talent. The focus will be on the foreign 'mercenaries' because they will outshine even the local heroes. Will the fans come to watch a Shahriar Nafees or a Chris Gayle? A Pollard or a Mahmudullah?” He however says that with proper moderation the tournament can be a level playing field for Bangladeshis to show their talent.

Whether the BPL will improve the quality of cricket in Bangladesh is a question that can only be answered in due time. As of now however, the Bangladesh Premier League remains the BCBs top most priority. So much so, that at one point it had decided to postpone the Dhaka Premier League midway and reschedule it after the BPL, a step that compelled representatives of the cricket clubs to protest against the BCB and the new league. In a press release last week, the club officials stated, “A vested group is out to organise the tournament like BPL for only commercial gain and to undermine the contribution of the clubs to Bangladesh's cricket.” Furthermore, the clubs had decided to take a stand against the vested group and threatened not to release their players for the BPL franchises.

The importance of striking a balance in between the commercialisation of the shorter version of the game and test cricket has been spoken about ever since the birth of twenty over cricket. The BCB needs to strike that balance for the greater good of Bangladeshi cricket and not merely look upon the financial benefits of the tournament. As Rahul Dravid in his speech at Sir Bradman's oration put it, “We'll be told that Test matches don't make financial sense, but no one ever fell in love with Test cricket because they wanted to be a businessman. Not everything of value comes at a price.”


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