DHAKA — The arrival of the League in Bangladesh’s second-largest city completely changed the complexion of the Twenty20 tournament. The first match at the venue, between the home side (Chittagong Kings) and Sylhet Royals, was played in front of a packed house and nearly all matches over the next five days saw full houses.
The chief reason is the central location of the MA Aziz Stadium, which is seeing some cricketing action after hosting football for most of the last eight years. International cricket is played at the Zahur Ahmed Chowdhury Stadium in the western corner of Chittagong. Though certain roads leading up to the venue were cordoned off, the spectators lined up two hours before the game. There were also rumours of slashed ticket prices, which attracted a sizeable amount of students from nearby educational institutions. On the final day, when the Kings took on Dhaka Gladiators, there was barely any room to stand in the general galleries.
Tamim Iqbal, who lives just across the street from the stadium, also entertained on a couple of nights, once trying to hit one into his house, though it ended up being a six over deep midwicket.
Kings still struggle
The Kings, however, didn’t warm up to the BPL even in the second week. In their first home game, they went down to Sylhet and then lost to Barisal Burners. Captaincy changed hands for the next two games with Zimbabwe captain Brendan Taylor replacing Mahmudullah, who wasn’t enjoying the role and had apparently given it away.
Big-ticket T20 players like Ravi Bopara, Jacob Oram and Shaun Tait didn’t quite contribute, and neither did most of the local players.
The squad looks thin in specialist T20 batsmen, while the left-arm spinners haven’t done a particularly good job of bowling to the fields they set.
Most of the headlines they have made in the BPL this season have been due to Brian Lara, their brand ambassador, who has participated in several events to keep the marketing wheel rolling.
The Zimbabwean connection
Brendan Taylor isn’t the only Zimbabwean player to be contributing to his side. The rest of his compatriots have also been chipping in with the bat.
Elton Chigumbura saw the Sylhet Royals through a tight finish, while Charles Coventry won a game for Duronto Rajshahi with a 25-ball 62, possibly the most breathtaking innings in the tournament till date. Sean Ervine has also kept Rajshahi’s hopes alive by batting at a strike rate of 140, but his bowling hasn’t been up to the mark.
Hamilton Masakadza’s batting tapered off slightly after an impressive show in the first few games, but it has been a tournament which would encourage BPL team selectors to keep an eye on more Zimbabwean players, with their local knowledge.
The Rangpur Riders were losing their way in a chase against the home side, Khulna Royal Bengals. But Nasir Hossain, in spectacular form, had other ideas as he led the Khulna chase of 151.
Against Afghan left-arm bowler Shapoor Zadran, who was bowling around the wicket, Nasir became a left-hander, then took a front-on stance before settling as a right-hander and smashing the flustered bowler back over his head.
He tried the trick a few times, but it wasn’t successful and his inability to take strike in the final over didn’t help matters either. Nasir’s excellent 2012-13 season continues into the BPL and much of Riders’ success would depend on him.