WITH allegations of match-fixing, arrest of alleged bookies, a mysterious midnight meeting to drop one team and promote another to the semi-finals, allegations of favouritism, political pressure, and oodles of money flowing around, the first ever Bangladesh Premier League came to a close on Wednesday with Dhaka Gladiators lifting the title. It seems that everything but cricket has come to the forefront during the three-week tourney. It is not just that each and every one of the allegations, some of which have reached the courts, need to be thoroughly investigated, but an assessment of why this tournament was held in the first place, what benefit it brought to cricket, who were the people involved behind this out-of-calendar tournament, which even our national skipper has called a ‘disgrace’, is very much in order.
At a time of economic downturn with ordinary people struggling with spiralling prices and poor income opportunities, and the economy reeling under the effects of high inflation, devaluation of taka and depleting foreign currency reserve, the sudden arrival of the BPL, in the mould of the Indian Premier League, with attractive price tags in the range of $200,000 and $500,000, had certainly raised a lot of eyebrows. But more disturbing was the way the tournament had played out, with persistent rumours of match-fixing, very convincing indications of outside intervention, and signs of un-professionalism, disorganisation and corruption. It is not to say though that there was any lack of glamour and entertainment.
One may ask what the benefit was for Bangladesh to host such a tourney in the middle of its regular season. Exposure for local players? Maybe, but in six teams packed with international players, most local players were pegged down the order of things and some of the regular faces in the national team did not even make it to the playing eleven. The Twenty20 format anyway is an extremely shortened version of the actual game which hardly tests the skills of players.
Bangladesh cricket, by many accords, has been going downhill for a number of years now. The general standard of the national side is yet to reach the standards consistently maintained by other Test-playing sides. In recent years, there has also been a dearth of new talent coming through. The local leagues are substandard, talent hunts are few and far between, cricket-playing fields are dwindling and in poor shape, and facilities and patronage in rare supply. Given the context, what contribution did BPL make to address these problems or did it actually compound our misery by now adding gambling, betting, match-fixing, glamour, money and power to the already-sordid cricket arena of our country?
The government needs to get these answers out of the organisers of BPL, the top officials of the Bangladesh Cricket Board, besides thoroughly investigating each and everyone of the serious allegations that have come out over the last few weeks. At the end of its first outing, it is safe to say, BPL seems ominous for our cricket.