The Bangladesh Premier League has grown remarkably since its inception and has contributed immensely to the emergence of Bangladesh as a major cricketing nation. In its’s fifth year now, the BPL will face some unique challenges due to a significant rule change, tight anti-corruption measures, new teams and one that was excluded at the last minute.
5 international players are now going to be allowed in the playing 11 which should raise the quality of the games further and push the local players even harder to make a mark.
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We take a look at the squads ahead of a tournament that is guaranteed to be an exciting one for everyone concerned:
The Dhaka Dynamites were easily the best team last season and overcame some nerves to win a tricky final. The defending champions will be the favorites this year as well thanks to some awesome talent that they have acquired for this tournament.
Led by the best cricketer Bangladesh has ever produced and rated as the best all-rounder in the world, Shakib Al Hasan is capable of winning matches with both the bat and the ball. Giving him excellent support will be Mossadeek Hossain, another Bangladeshi international that has impressed in every opportunity that he has gotten.
He scored 304 runs in last year’s campaign, third highest for the team after the 370 scored by Sangakkara and 247 by Mehedi Maruf. Both Sangakkara and Maruf are also a part of this year’s Dhaka Dynamites squad.
The Dynamites have plenty of firepower in their batting with the likes of Sangakkara, Shane Watson, Evin Lewis and Joe Denly in their squad. The bowling is also world-class thanks to Mohammad Amir, Sunil Narine, Shahid Afridi, Shakib Al Hasan, and a number of other all-rounders to take up the responsibilities as needed.
They will definitely miss the service of Dwayne Bravo, though, who took 21 wickets for them last year and was their best bowler by far.
Winning T20 leagues is more than just assembling the best players but the Dynamites have everything needed to mount a successful title defense.
An excellent group stage performance the Khulna Titans finish second in the table with seven wins to their name from 12 matches. It meant that the Titans would have two shots at getting to the finals both of which they fluffed and ended their campaign before the big match.
Led by the highly regarded Mahmudullah, the Titans have a strong squad this year as well and should definitely find themselves in the thick of things. The local talent in this team is of a high standard thanks to the skipper himself, Shaiful Islam, and highly regarded youngsters like Nazmul Hossain Shanto and Afif Hossain Dhrubo.
We also believe that Khulna Titans have made some of the smartest acquisitions in this year’s draft. Junaid Khan and Shadab Khan from Pakistan are excellent T20 bowlers, with the young leggie being particularly hard to fathom. The presence of Kyle Abbott, a bowler who was dominating international cricket just a season ago is also a huge win for this team.
The Titans round out their bowling strength through some canny picks like Seekkuge Prasanna from Sri Lanka and Jofra Archer from England. Archer is close to qualifying for England and we expect to see his stock rise considerably in the future. He could be the X-factor for this team if picked.
In the batting department, Rilee Rossow, who had an excellent NatWest T20 Blast, Chris Lynn, possibly the best hitter of a cricket ball in the world right now, and Dawid Malan from England make this squad a well-rounded one.
The Titans will be hoping that their local players can chip in with the bat consistently otherwise there may be some weak links that they have to carry throughout the tournament. An excellent squad with plenty of match winners that could go very far in this tournament once again.
The highest scorer for the Titans was Mahmudullah with 396 runs, while Junaid Khan took 20 wickets to be the highest wicket-taker for their team.
2016 was a mixed year for the Vikings as they found themselves in the knockout stages of the tournament by the virtue of their run-rate but lost in the eliminator itself. A large part of their success was thanks to the presence of Tamim Iqbal in their squad who scored 476 runs. This year, though, Tamim has moved to the Comilla Victorians to leave a huge hole in their team.
Soumya Sarkar, the new skipper, will have plenty of responsibility on his shoulders as he attempts to lead this side to victory. Thankfully, Sarkar has been in good form and scored some valuable runs in the T20’s against South Africa to come into the tournament with confidence.
Among the local players, Sarkar will have support from Taskin Ahmed who took 15 wickets last season and Subashis Roy who took 7. Their bowling, though, will be considerably weakened by the loss of Mohammad Nabi, the Afghan-international, who took 19 wickets and led the wickets tally for the Chittagong Vikings last year.
A couple of interesting overseas picks could help the Vikings compete this year, though, as they have Luke Ronchi from New Zealand, Jermaine Blackwood from the West Indies, Sikandar Raza from Zimbabwe and Misbah Ul Haque from Pakistan as the biggest acquisitions this year.
The Vikings squad looks a little light in depth and will need one or two of their players to hit consistent form otherwise they could struggle massively this year. We think Chittagong held their purse strings a little too tightly this year and have ended up with a pool of players that are threatening when in form but underwhelming and unreliable most of the times.
The Rajshahi Kings squeaked into the knockout stages of the tournament but ended up hitting form at just the right time and made it all the way to the final. In fact, the final was also a game that Rajshahi could have easily won but that was not to be on the day.
Another one of the teams that we think did very well in the draft, the Rajshahi Kings have made some excellent additions to their team. Skipper Mushfiqur Rahim will lead the batting effort among the local players and be supported by Mominul Haque.
The diminutive left-hander had a very good season last year as he scored 331 runs to be the second highest scorer of the team behind Sabbir Rahman who is no longer a part of the team. The likes of Mehedi Hasan Miraz and Mustafizur Rahman, easily the best bowlers in Bangladesh right now, and Farhad Reza, the highest wicket-taker for the team last season, mean that the Rajshahi Kings have a very strong local lineup of players.
An injury scare to Mustafizur Rahman will alter the plans of the Kings somewhat but it is unclear as to how many matches Rahman will actually miss this season.
The overseas picks for the Kings do not quite have the star power of the top teams but are all proven performers. Luke Wright is regarded as one of the best batsmen in this form of the game, while Samit Patel contributed with both the bat and ball last season.
Darren Sammy also makes a return to the side where he is a crowd favorite and played some remarkable innings to help the Rajshahi Kings reach the finals.
This is a good squad where importance has been given to finding local players and then filling the gaps with overseas performers. The only risk to this strategy comes from the fact that 5 overseas players will now be a part of the playing 11 in each match and that could leave the Kings somewhat exposed.
The Rangpur Riders would have been devastated after coming so close to qualifying for the knock out stages of the tournament and then falling short. They will hope to focus on the positives though and learn from their mistakes to have a better year.
With, one of the most highly rated coaches in the world, Tom Moody, at their service, the Rangpur Riders will be hoping that he can turn this highly talented bunch of players into a cohesive unit. Some of the best local talent in the country will be making its way out in the middle for the Riders this season led by skipper Mashrafe Mortaza, Mohammad Mithun who scored 320 runs last season with a team-high 13 sixes to his name, fast bowler Rubel Hossain, Shohag Gazi, and the highly experienced Abdur Razzak as the surprise pick.
The local talent is skewed somewhat towards the bowling aspect and the overseas players will attempt to provide the batting firepower. This is a tactic that Moody has employed successfully in the IPL as well with the Sunrisers Hyderabad.
The overseas players for the Rangpur Riders are very exciting. Chris Gayle, back to playing international cricket and fully available for the tournament is the biggest draw, David Willey smacked sixes and centuries for fun at the NatWest Blast apart from providing a genuine bowling option, Johnson Charles, Adam Lyth, Samuel Badree who is possibly the best spinner in T20 cricket right now, and the dangerous Thisara Perera all make for a very dangerous squad of players.
We think that the death bowling might be an issue for the Riders, as could fielding because of the presence of a number of slow fielders. If all the key players are able to maintain their fitness over the course of the tournament then the Rangpur Riders are definitely in line to be the dark horses this year.
Another poor season for the former BPL champions side has meant that a lot of reshuffling has taken place in the side. The owners have spent a lot of money to try and make their team competitive again and tried to get the best players to play for them.
One of the biggest names they managed to get a hold of, Tamim Iqbal, has unfortunately been sidelined by injury and it is unclear as to how many matches he will end up missing but it is sure to be around the first 2 weeks of the tournament.
This is a big blow for the Victorians who were hoping for both Tamim the player on the field and Tamim the mentor off the field to reshape this side. All is not lost, though, as the Comilla Victorians have a very strong squad this year. Among the local players, Liton Das, Imrul Kayes, Mohammad Saifuddin, and Arafat Sunny are all highly rated on the Bangladeshi circuit.
Along with this solid set of local players comes an exciting crop of overseas talent. Hassan Ali is currently the most in-form bowler in the world and decimating batting attacks at will, Shoaib Malik brings experience and solidity, Jos Buttler and Colin Munro are two of the cleanest strikers in the world and both are in prolific run-scoring form, while players like Mohammad Nabi, Rashid Khan, Angelo Mathews and more will leave the Comilla Victorians spoiled for choice.
There is no doubt in our mind that the Victorians will have a better season than last time but to really go the distance their local players must come to the party and perform consistently. This will be the team that benefits most from the extra foreign players allowed to play in the playing eleven.
The newest team in the Bangladesh Premier league will make its debut and look to make a splash straight away. A look at the squad of the team makes it easy to understand that the Sixers are entering this competition with a fair bit of trepidation.
They have avoided going in for too many big names and looked to make some smart picks. Whether that pays off or not will only be shown the results but there is no doubt that they will have their work cut out for them.
Sabbir Rahman has an excellent BPL last year and now saddled with the additional responsibility of captaincy will look to take his game to the next level. He does not have too many big name local players to help him out either as Nasir Hossain, Taijul Islam and Shuvagata Hom all fall squarely in the second tier of Bangladeshi cricket at the moment.
The overseas recruits are also players that do not catch the eye at first look. The biggest names among them are the phenomenally in-form Babar Azam and Richard Levi who had an excellent NatWest T20 blast this year.
Ross Whiteley came into the limelight after smashing six sixes in an over in the NatWest Blast, while Liam Plunkett will provide genuine pace to the operation. A number of other players that can fly under the radar have also been picked.
The going looks set to be tough for the Sixers as their squad is light on genuine power hitters, death bowlers, or quality spinners. The quality of some of the batsmen in their team should be hopefully enough to win them games in the middle but we think sustained success is going to be far from their reach this season.
We think that the Dhaka Dynamites go into the tournament as deserving favorites and should end up defending their title. The four teams most likely to make it to the knock out stages would be Dhaka Dynamites, Khulna Titans, Comilla Victorians, and the Rangpur Riders.
The highest scorer of last year’s tournament was Tamim Iqbal who is going to be missing for a major chunk of the tournament this year. We actually think that a foreign national will score the most runs and like Rilee Rossouw for an early bet.
When it comes to the highest wicket taker, spinners are the ones to look out for, and currently Shadab Khan from Pakistan fits the bill in all aspects.