BBPL – A missed opportunity for Bangladeshi cricket

The 8th edition of Bangabandhu Bangladesh Premier League (BBPL) cricket has kicked off this week. Right on the eve of the tournament, the natural expectation was that the focus would be on cricket, on fans showing their passion to get behind a tournament celebrating our national obsession.

The reality couldn’t have been more starkly different. A peek into social media tells the tale of a tournament ridiculed so much that it has become one walking meme. The initial potential shown by the tournament is replaced by it becoming a symbol of the shortcomings of Bangladesh’s cricketing arena.

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One theme is the inconsistency of the franchises. Unlike IPL, Big Bash and PSL, the franchise owners and in turn names change in BBPL almost annually. The champions of the previous edition, Rajshahi Royals won’t even be a part of this edition. Additionally, the number of teams for this edition has decreased to six. Inconsistency in team formation and sustainability is making fans increasingly disillusioned by this tournament.

BBPL’s broadcast quality has also been under the microscope over the years. Their poor graphics and unsynchronized scoreboards became an unwanted symbol of the tournament. Poorly designed scoreboards showing outlandish scores like 720/0 in 5 overs or a bowler’s speed at 169 mph doesn’t reflect well on the infrastructure of our country’s premier sport, with foreign domestic leagues like India’s Ranji Trophy and Pakistan’s Quaid-e-Azam Trophy boasting better broadcast infrastructures.

The role of commentators is crucial in making the games enjoyable for the viewers. Commentary in BBPL has been a big talking point in the past. With Covid-19 acting as the thorn, there won’t be much of a foreign presence in the commentary arena this time around. The state of our local commentary teams are less-than-ideal too, their discussions either becoming too one-dimensional or simply veering off from the game itself.

Another drawback of our country’s premier cricket tournament has been the state of umpiring. BBPL’s reputation has been blemished by some inconsistent umpiring over the years. Again, thanks to Covid-19, DRS would be absent from this edition. As technology won’t be there to point out the umpire’s mistakes, this edition runs the risk of being remembered as one where bad umpiring had a disproportionate impact on results.

In an ideal world, BBPL would be our national ambassador of cricket – spreading its underlying passion and spirit through the T20 carnival all over the country. Unfortunately, the venues remain limited within Dhaka, Chattogram and Sylhet only. This is sad from a fans’ perspective – with stadiums in Khulna, Rajshahi, and Narayanganj remaining idle.

Playing at the same pitches time and again, the matches become low-scoring, bland affairs. This coupled with no cricket in their home cities, fans become disconnected from the game. Moreover, we have recently seen the team’s training at BCB’s academy ground in shifts, while a surplus of grounds remain unused.

Photos and videos of teams’ practice sessions have been doing the rounds in social media of late. But it wasn’t for cricketing reasons – people were busy mocking the teams as the players practiced wearing national team gear! And not just any players, the likes of Shakib, Tamim and Mushfiq were seen practicing in Bangladesh gear for their respective teams. This throws some uncomfortably serious questions about the professionalism of the entire management.

Amidst all the doom and gloom, the question remains – is there a way out? Ultimately, everything rests on the action on the 22-yards. Despite the drawbacks, BBPL teams have still attracted stars like Andre Russell, Moeen Ali and Faf du Plessis. It isn’t hopeless on the professionalism front either, with Comilla Victorians and Chattogram Challengers showing exemplary competence on and off the field. As fans, we now sit back and hope we are treated to a thriller over the next month.

Inqiad Bin Ali has ‘got a pain in his heart and a love in his soul’. He is found deep in thoughts at inqiadali007@gmail.com

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