“Are you coming by February 9?” An official of a BPL franchise asked a Sri Lankan player who is taking part in the ongoing ILT20 in Sharjah while sitting in the lobby of the team hotel on February 6.
The Sri Lankan cricketer replied that he can only confirm the dates after seeing where his team stands in the ILT20, while the official was passing time trying to make small talk with cricketers who are plying their trade at different franchise-based T20 tournaments.
“The biggest problem for us (BPL franchises) is that these cricketers are committed to different franchise leagues and now only can make time if they have completed their stint in one tournament and there is time before joining the next tournament,” the official told Cricbuzz on request of anonymity.
BPL 2023 from the very beginning was at risk of not having the leading T20 stars, who were inclined to join the ILT20 and SA20. Pakistani players’ availability was a big boost for the teams since they have been the major stars of the tournament so far, but they will fly back before the eliminators with the PSL about to get underway.
The BPL franchises can consider themselves lucky as the Pakistani cricketers did manage to convince their PSL franchises to spend some more time in Bangladesh after Pakistan Cricket Board had earlier asked them to return before February 2.
The arrival of SA20 and ILT20, along with the existing different T20 leagues across the world, certainly came as a big blow for BPL. Those days are in the past when a BPL team could have the luxury of having their foreign recruits for the whole season. Nowadays, overseas cricketers come in for a couple of matches and leave for their next destination.
Fazal Haq Farooqi, Mohammad Nabi, David Malan played two matches for Comilla Victorians while for the business end of the tournament, they have roped in Sunil Narine and Andre Russell and are expecting Moeen Ali to play for them if they make it to the knockouts. This has been the case for other teams as well.
Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Tom Kohler-Cadmore arrived a day before their game and played for Rangpur Riders on February 7 while Naveen ul Haque arrived on February 8 and is expected to feature for Riders when they take Victorians on Friday (February 10) for a place in the first qualifier. Fortune Barishal roped South African Dwaine Pretorius and recently Sylhet Strikers, the other team that qualified for a spot in the final by reaching the last four, had signed George Linde of South Africa as their Pakistani recruits Imad Wasim and Mohammad Amir left for PSL after playing crucial roles earlier in the season.
The latest trend has also made life difficult for the head coaches of the respective four teams as they have to welcome a new signing, make him comfortable and let him understand his role in the team in a short turnaround time. Strikers head coach Rajin Saleh admitted to Cricbuzz that it is not as easy as it looks, considering the team management have to put some effort to get everything in order in the dressing room.
“Look it’s a bit difficult to handle it as new players are coming every now and then, said Saleh. “Giving him importance is very important as well as making sure that he is getting along well with the team by giving him the opportunity to mix with the guys. I played cricket and as a guardian or a big brother I always try to make the dressing room a happy place. Look I feel this is the way things will go forward and we need to make sure that we create such an atmosphere that a new cricketer can be at ease coming into the dressing room,” he said.
Riders head coach Sohel Islam feels that as the players are very professional it is not difficult for them to adjust in the new conditions. “Look, earlier players were not so professional but now that is not the case. Those who play franchise tournaments are well aware about their role.
“For example, let’s talk about Gurbaz and he is very clear about his role like ‘I will bat at the top order’ and ‘I have to fill certain responsibilities’. They are mentally prepared for it and they play in similar scenarios everywhere like they are playing here now and afterwards will move to a new franchise tournament. Because they are playing in similar conditions and for a long period of time they are quite adaptable everywhere they go.
“As a coach we talk with them one-on-one, like what will be his role, to give him a clear picture about what we need from him to deliver.
“Look, they are not worried about being dropped because the culture of T20 cricket is such that teams can change with every opponents and this culture is brought by IPL and they are very used to it. Five or six foreign players will come and some of them will be dropped and they are very easy with all those things,” he said.
“Bonding is important but unless you are successful it is hard to develop bonding. Once your team is having a successful run that will automatically help for a new player to get into the flow.”
Fortune head coach Nazmul Abedin insists that the most important thing is to clear the role when he arrives as it helps to move forward smoothly. “You have to accept that developing team bonding as we understand and taking that to the desired level is almost impossible in the present days. Still, what we can do is to clarify the role to the cricketer and develop interpersonal relationship as quickly as possible. The only thing is that we have to make sure that the cricketer understands what the demand of the team is,” said Nazmul.
“Look, this trend will continue in the coming days so the biggest challenge for coaches is to make sure that the guy is gelling with the team and once that is done you are almost there. To clear their position in the group dynamics as soon as possible is very important and when the whole group gives him his position it will be easier for him to get into the skin of his role and that too without feeling threatened or challenged.
“When a new cricketer comes into the group he feels threatened or challenged and the duty of the team management is to make sure that there is no such insecurity creeping into the mind of the newcomers because what I have seen… but in those times, you have to give confidence to the players that you are with them as well as welcome the new cricketers with so much warmth that he’s excited to perform,” he added.
Mohammad Salahuddin, the most successful coach of BPL with three titles under his belt, believes that if they can rope someone who had played in their team earlier then adjusting becomes easier rather than with someone coming into the team for the first time.
“The advantage we have over other teams is that those who are coming in have already played in our team before. When I began the campaign I told the cricketers that whoever comes into our team as the tournament progresses, talk with him as that would make it much easier for both parties as the cricketers in the dressing room also need to get on the same wavelength.
Salahuddin added that dropping an in-form player whenever a big name arrives is the biggest challenge for him. “When a big name arrives it becomes difficult to drop someone who is performing like Charles is playing well for us but we had to drop him as Sunil and Russell arrived but it’s a difficult call for any coach as you are dropping a good performer out of nowhere. The best thing is that they are professionals and due to that they are neither bothered nor get upset when they are dropped.”