Gladiators begin title defence against Royal Bengals todayStaff Correspondent
Holders Dhaka Gladiators will kick off their title defence against a depleted Khulna Royal Bengals as action of the second Bangladesh Premier League begins today at Mirpur.
The match could turn into a one-sided affair after Khulna lost much of their strength, unlike their opponents, with the Pakistanis pulling out of the tournament at the eleventh hour.
Royal Bengals are the worst hit for a whimsical Pakistani decision as they had picked seven players from the country in Shoaib Malik, Umar Akmal, Awais Zia, Umar Amin, Ahmed Shehzad, Haris Sohail and Bilawal Bhatti.
As of Thursday, they could bring in just one replacement in Riki Wessels, the England-based son on former South African captain Kepler Wessels. Australian cricketer Shane Harwood, who played for Barisal Burners last season, could join the side before the opening match at 2:00pm, said the officials of the franchise.
This, however, could be inadequate against a side who are least affected by the Pakistani players’ absence. Dhaka Gladiators had picked only one Pakistani in Shahid Afridi, which means they remained the same side they were before the decision came.
To their supporters’ delight, Gladiators on Thursday confirmed they have added West Indies cricketer Kieran Pollard, though he will not be available for them in the opening match.
Until Thursday, only four English cricketers – Chris Liddle, Luke Wright, Joshua Cobb, Darren Stevens – arrived and their joining up with local stars Sakib al Hasan, Mashrafee bin Murtaza, Mohammad Ashraful and Anamul Haque could still prove handy for Khulna Royal Bengals.
Gladiators skipper Mashrafee, however, is still cautious as this is just a 20-over-per-side game, where anything can happen and any side can cause an upset.
‘We have probably the strongest team on paper. With players like Sakib, Ashraful, Anamul, Luke Wright, Alfonso Thomas and Dilshan, joining us later, there is a high chance for us to do well in the tournament,’ said Mashrafee.
‘But at the end of the day what matters is
how we perform on the field. A team can always look strong on paper
but what really means is what that team do in the middle.
‘They [Khulna] were one of the strongest teams last year and this time also they had a pretty decent line-up until the Pakistani incident took place. I don’t know what their situation now is but I believe they will find out a way.
‘And when it comes to playing with them, I believe one should never underestimate their opponents. They might not have the line-up that they expected but still they have guys out there who are professional cricketers and of course they know how to play cricket,’ he said.
Last year’s runners-up Barisal Burners will face Sylhet Royals in the other match of the day, which, however, is expected to provide some contest with both sides having a decent line-up.
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