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Imagine Chris Gayle, AB De Villiers, Alex Hales and Rilee Rossouw in your top four.
Imagine Shakib Al Hasan, Sunil Narine, Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell as your all rounders. The Bangladesh Premier League has finally delivered following seasons of corruption, poor pitches and other problems surrounding Bangladesh domestic cricket.
For the first time in the history of the BPL, an auction had been replaced by a draft, showing signs of flexibility and forward thinking by the Bangladesh Cricket Board. The best white ball players had shown their interest in the BPL, with stars such as Dave Warner, Steve Smith, Shahid Afridi, De Villiers, Gayle and many more signing for teams prior to the draft or being signed in the draft.
The beginning of the BPL had been criticised with poor pitches being produced thus low scores and players and fans being equally frustrated at the lack of quality cricket. Pakistani all rounder Shoaib Malik had shown his displeasure at the pitches and warned of poor crowds should it continue.
His words had seemed to work with pitches across Sylhet, Chattogram and Dhaka being suitable for both bowlers and batsmen, rather than a road or rank turner.
While the Khulna Titans (coached by Mahela Jayawardene) and David Warner’s Sylhet Sixers had failed to excite fans with inconsistent performances, the race to fourth spot went right to the final game with Shakib Al Hasan’s Dhaka Dynamites scraping to fourth on net run rate over Rajshahi Kings (coached by former South African all rounder Lance Klusener).
Chittagong Vikings recovered well from the wooden spoon last season to a playoff spot under the captaincy of Bangladesh wicketkeeper Mushfiqur Rahim. Abu Jayed and Khaled Ahmed showed their is a decent bench strength for Bangladesh fast bowlers in white ball cricket while South African veteran Robbie Frylinck had given himself a slim chance of playing for South Africa again with his blows with both bat and ball.
Afghani wicketkeeper Mohammad Shahzad entertained the crowd with his blows with the bat and his unorthodox keeping while Mosaddek Hossain has seemed to revive his former self with crucial lower order runs. The Vikings started well in the season but faltered when it mattered with an eliminator loss ending their campaign.
Rangpur Riders were always the neutrals favourite. Led by Mashrafe Mortaza, the defending champions bolstered an impressive batting line-up with Gayle, Hales, Rossouw and Mr 360 AB De Villiers.
Bar Gayle, Rangpur’s overseas batsmen including Ravi Bopara and Mohammad Mithun had delivered at certain stages of the BPL. Bengali veterans Mortaza and Farhad Reza showed experience matters in t20 cricket while Shafiul Islam’s form warranted a recall into the Bangladesh ODI team with his lethal yorkers and slower balls.
Despite topping the group stages, Rangpur underperformed in their playoff matches, losing both opportunities to book a ticket to the final tonight and finishing a below par third.
Comilla Victorians had kept the core of their squad from last season, adding Evin Lewis and Steve Smith to a strong batting line-up. Despite Steve Smith’s shoulder injury forcing him to leave early in the tournament, the owners had the chance to hand Shahid Afridi or Shoaib Malik but instead opted for Bangladesh batsman Imrul Kayes.
And boy has he delivered. Batting out of position and handling captaincy but he’s never let that get to him. Evin Lewis and Tamim Iqbal have given strong starts to the Victorians while Afridi, Thisara Perera and the Bengali Stokes Mohammad Saifuddin have provided Comilla a balanced side with their all-round capabilities with bat and ball.
Offspinner Mahedi Hasan and Pakistani quick Wahab Riaz provided wickets in the powerplay and the Victorians have rarely looked out of place throughout their campaign so far. Truly worthy of making the final and have the edge over Dhaka Dynamites tonight considering they have beaten them twice in the group stages.
Despite losing five in a row, the Dhaka Dynamites have scraped their way to the final, with star players standing up and performing in crunch matches. Finalists last year, they have the chance to redeem themselves in front of their home crowd tonight.
Sunil Narine’s elevation to the top order allowed the Dynamites play an extra bowler. But rather they bat up to nine thanks to the all rounders in Shakib Al Hasan, Pollard and Jamaican superstar Andre Russell.
Rubel Hossain has found form with his deadly death bowling at 140+, a sight Bangladesh coach Steve Rhodes will be delighted to see before the one day series against New Zealand. Despite losing to Comilla twice in the group stages, they have won three BPL titles and know how to win, so expect this final to go right down to the wire.
One thing I can confidently say is that the BPL has been far better than the Big Bash. The overseas imports, quality of cricket and quality of pitches have all been won by the BPL. There are still problems such as no home and away season, but those will be sorted soon by the BCB.
It’s no surprising matter that the start of BPL has coincided with the rise of Bangladesh in one day cricket. Maybe with this season’s BPL being the best cricket ever produced, maybe it will spur Bangladesh to defy all odds and go far in the World Cup in four months’ time.