The latest twist in a long tale of controversy in the ongoing Bangladesh Premier League (BPL) was the outcome of a midnight drama the name of which can be best described as 'Exit Chittagong, Enter Barisal'.
It was the wee hours on Tuesday when the BPL governing council and its glorified technical committee decided that Barisal instead of Chittagong would play the semifinal as the fourth-qualified team.
But by that time the whole nation knew that Chittagong would play Rajshahi in the first semi courtesy of an earlier announcement by BPL chairman Gazi Ashraf Hossain to a loyal print and electronic media followed by endorsement from Bangladesh Cricket Board (BCB) president AHM Mustafa Kamal, who termed Gazi Ashraf's decision perfectly within the law book while appearing in a late night show on a private TV channel.
But the U-turn understandably let loose a chaotic atmosphere in the morning. Barisal called back their Australian captain Brad Hodge from the airport, managers of the other three semifinalists called an impromptu press briefing in an apparent effort to show their support for Chittagong but left the scene without expressing anything conclusive, leaving the port city franchise to fight their own battle against what its CEO Sameer Quader Chowdhury termed a coup d'état.
The BPL council issued a statement in support of their decision that read: “Since three teams, namely: Dhaka Gladiators, Barisal Burners and Chittagong Kings are on equal points at 10 each. Dhaka Gladiators beat both Barisal Burners and Chittagong Kings in their matches. Therefore, Dhaka Gladiators qualifies as the third semifinalist. In regards to Barisal Burners and Chittagong Kings beating each other once, the issue of the fourth qualifier had to be decided on the basis of better net run rate.”
But the by-laws that the BPL governing council has taken into consideration to award Barisal the semifinal spot interprets something different. And if anyone reads between the lines of Clause Two in the article 21.8, it certainly favours Chittagong.
The clause reads: “When three (03) or more teams finish with equal points and equal wins in the league, then the team (s) which was (were) the winner of the most number of matches played between those equal teams in the league will be placed in the higher position (s).”
And understandably the Chittagong Kings officials came down heavily on the BPL management, even raising questions about the fairness of the tournament itself, claiming that the organisers have deprived them as per the by-laws they should have been in the semifinal. They also threatened to take legal action though they could not file the case yesterday.
“According to the by-laws we should have been in the semifinal because Dhaka won three, Chittagong two and Barisal one match (between them). We have taken all kinds of preparations and two Pakistani players (Umar Akmal and Wahab Reaz) also arrived to play the semifinal match but we don't know what happened at midnight. Without any doubt they have flouted the by-laws,” said Chittagong Kings team manager Nasir Ahmed.
Sameer Quader Chowdhury, CEO of Chittagong Kings, came down as hard as possible on the organisers. “It's become a stage for gambling. I want an answer from the organizers, whether they took the decision under pressure of the gamblers,” said an angry Sameer threatening that they may not continue their involvement if things go like this.
“As an owner of the team I'm really in the dark with everything about the tournament. I have doubts about everything after the way the tournament is running. You know we were approached by the bookies from India to fix the match and we reported this to the BPL's anti-corruption unit immediately but they hardly take any action regarding these issues,” said Sameer, who claimed that they helped the authorities to capture Pakistani Sajid Khan, who was put on two-day remand for questioning about his alleged involvement in match-fixing.
BPL governing council secretary Sirajuddin Mohammad Alamgir however blamed his chairman Gazi Ashraf Hossain for creating the unpleasant situation for them.
“We accept that it was our mistake, whatever confusion arose. Lipu bhai (Gazi Ashraf Hossain) gave his personal opinion to the media. It cannot be the stance of the BPL technical or governing council. Whatever he said, I personally think it was a mistake for which so much confusion has been created. What he told us, he thought it might happen. He didn't discuss it with anyone and told the media,” explained Alamgir in an official press conference where match referee Mike Proctor also turned up.
But it hardly cleared the air.